Shuffling the numbers

The mayor revises his disclosures of city dealings, but questions remain.

Mayor Paul Schell says he will correct an "honest mistake," made on his recent public financial-disclosure report, that failed to show that a company in which he held an interest had done $15,000 worth of business with the city. But some confusion remains over the corrected figures and whether Schell properly disclosed his conflict of interest in another instance: He didn't reveal that one of his companies was doing business with the Port of Seattle last year while he was a port commissioner. Schell says that's because he never knew about it.

Responding to discrepancies raised in a comparison of his disclosure report with city and port billing documents ("Addition, subtraction, complication," SW 7/2/98), the mayor says his accounting firm supplied him with the wrong figures for his report. He disclosed in May that Access Technology Integration (ATI), a Bellevue security-systems firm in which he held an investment interest until two months ago, did $875 in business with the city and $14,835 in business with the port last year. It should read just the opposite. The figures were mistakenly switched on the disclosure report Schell filed with the city and state, says mayoral spokesperson Victoria Schoenburg. "Although a number of people reviewed the filing before processing it," she explains, "no one caught the error. An amendment will be filed and the mistake corrected."

But a records check shows that the mayor is still using the wrong figures. ATI actually did $22,500 in business with the city last year, and the port now says its records show ATI entered into a contract last December for closed-circuit TV equipment at the airport parking garage after submitting a winning bid of $16,152—far more than the $875 Schell would report if he merely switched the disclosure figures. Payment for the bid, however, wasn't made until this year. Schell, a multimillionaire businessman and developer, says that's been part of the problem in compiling his extensive report: Contract figures and final payment figures often differ both in cost and in time.

ATI, which was partly owned by Pacific Cascade Corporation (PCC)—a parking-equipment company that Schell founded and owns—also earned $7,438 from the city this year, but Schell is not required to report that until next year. Even so, did he clearly reveal his past interests in ATI? "As port commissioner," mayoral aide Schoenburg says, "Schell disclosed his relationship with PCC in his yearly F-1 filings and fulfilled all the requirements of those filings." However, "as far as the mayor can recall, he did not notify the port that PCC had purchased a minority interest in ATI." But, she adds, "neither was he aware that ATI did any business with the port. And neither would his responsibilities at the port have ever touched upon or influenced whether or not the port did business with ATI."

Now that Schell has "moved beyond a purely policy-related, part-time role at the port to chief executive of the city," Schoenburg adds, "he recognizes that to avoid such situations in the future he had best have no association at all with ATI." Schell has sold his interests, and the company is now under the sole ownership of Bellevue businessman Don Grant. ATI will, however, continue to do business with the city and port, Schoenburg says, "in order to survive." Schell's PCC also continues to do business with the port and with government agencies other than Seattle's.

 
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