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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Council Roundup: Wallace cleared of conflict of interest

Also, council to comment on light rail progress as decision nears

On Monday, an independent attorney hired by the City Council to investigate potential conflicts of interest cleared Councilmember Kevin Wallace of alleged violations related to his work on the East Link light rail project.

Consultant Jeffrey Coopersmith, an attorney with the law firm DLA Piper, presented the third and final report on alleged conflicts of interest among council members.  
Coopersmith's investigation of Wallace focused on three areas: whether his support of a downtown light rail route that would potentially have a beneficial impact on property owned by his parents violated state or local law; whether his advocacy of a B7 light rail alignment in south Bellevue, while he was at the same discussing a potential business deal with a now bankrupt railroad freight line, GNP Rly. Inc., violated state or local law; and whether Wallace improperly tried to use city resources to benefit GNP or himself.

In every instance, Coopersmith concluded that Wallace had not violated any laws related to conflicts of interest. Wallace said he cooperated fully with the review and that Coopersmith's report verifies conclusions reached by a legal expert Wallace asked to review the issues.

"I take my role as a council member very seriously and wanted the citizens of Bellevue to know they can have the confidence in their council to deal fairly and independently with our city's pressing issues," Wallace said. "Mr. Coopermith's report confirms there was no conflict of interest on my part."

Coopersmith released two earlier reports in June that cleared counncilmembers Grant Degginger and Claudia Balducci of alleged conflicts of interest related to their involvement with East Link.

Degginger works for a law firm that has represented Sound Transit on projects outside of Bellevue, and he represented Sound Transit in 2003 on a case in Tacoma. Balducci is a board member of Sound Transit, the agency that will build and operate a light rail line in Bellevue. In both instances, Coopersmith concluded there were no conflicts.

Several councilmembers on Monday called for the creation of an ethics code specifically for the council. Mayor Don Davidson directed staff to make the development of such a code a priority.

Currently, there is no such local code. The conduct of municipal officers, including council members, is governed by two state statutes (RCW 42.23.030 and RCW 42.23.070). City employees, department directors and the city manager do have local ethics codes to govern their actions.

Feedback: Mary Kate Berens, Deputy City Attorney, 425-452-4616 or mkberens@bellevuewa.gov

Council to comment on light rail progress as decision nears
Councilmembers agreed to deliver a message to Sound Transit's Board of Directors that they are encouraged by recent progress in negotiations over the future East Link light rail project.

A majority of the council has favored a light rail route in South Bellevue, called B7, that would run along Interstate 90 and I-405 into downtown, while Sound Transit has supported a route called B2M that would run parallel to Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue Southeast.

The two sides are also trying to work out an agreement that would pave the way for a downtown light rail tunnel, which is estimated to cost about $300 million more than a street-level alternative. Bellevue wants the tunnel but Sound Transit has asked the city to pay up to $150 million of "in-kind" contributions toward its construction.

Councilmember Jennifer Robertson will attend Sound Transit's Board meeting on Thursday, when the transit organization could announce its final route preference for East Link. Councilmembers expressed cautious optimism that progress can be made on issues such as engineering, environmental review, mitigation, public outreach and funding for the downtown tunnel.

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