PUBLICLY, MAYOR Paul Schell and developer Wright Runstad & Company have been unabashedly thick for decades. But it now turns out they've had a private monetary relationship as well.
According to new public disclosure documents, last year WRC did almost $100,000 worth of business with the mayor's private company, Pacific Cascade Corporation, a parking equipment firm based in Vancouver, Wash.
The multimillionaire Schell is a co-founder, director, and 75 percent owner of the company, which grossed around $1.3 million last year. It manufactures and sells parking equipment and meters used to operate private parking garages and lots.
This is not the first sign of a mutual admiration society between Schell and Wright Runstad & Company. When Schell ran for a Port of Seattle Commission seat, WRC backed his candidacy. Later, commissioner Shell helped WRC win multimillion-dollar Port contracts. Next, in his run for mayor, Schell got donations and campaign assistance from WRC. In turn, Mayor Schell helped WRC win approval for, among other things, converting a valuable public property, the PacMed building, into a swank new corporate headquarters for Amazon.com.
This year in Schell's re-election bid, WRC executive Joel Horn is one of the mayor's most important boosters and fund-raisers. And eight WRC executives have donated a combined total of about $4,000 to the re-election campaign.
This whirlpool of money—with WRC giving to the mayor's public campaign and private company while the mayor taps the company for major deals— seems to present at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.
"No," says press aide Dick Lilly, "there is no conflict of interest." WRC bought $97,478 in parking equipment from Pacific last year, he says, and chose the company through a competitive bid.
We asked Lilly if the mayor thinks there might be a conflict because donor/buyer/ backer WRC directly benefits from Schell's official acts—thanks to the mayor's help, WRC's sweetheart PacMed deal will earn the company up to 25 times what it pays to lease the public site for 149 years.
"There has been no benefit to Wright Runstad," Lilly says flatly.