One of two elected members of the board of the Seattle Monorail Project says that former Executive Director Joel Horn lied about a bid to build the project, the details of which were at the time undisclosed, by telling her that news reports about the bid being $200 million too high were not accurate. In an interview with Seattle Weekly's editorial board Monday, Aug. 15, Cindi Laws also said Horn and then–board Chairman Tom Weeks had "an unholy relationship," in a professional sense, that affected board oversight.
Horn and Weeks both resigned July 4, a few weeks after Horn announced a tentative agreement with the Cascadia Monorail consortium worth $2.1 billion, which, with interest, would have cost taxpayers $11 billion over 50 years. Horn and his staff spent almost a year negotiating with Cascadia to build and operate the Green Line from Ballard to West Seattle, keeping specifications and financial plans secret from the board and the public until the June announcement. The plan was then scrapped.
Monorail spokesperson Natasha Jones says Horn is not responding to media inquiries, and Weeks could not be reached.
At the Seattle Weekly meeting were Laws, the other incumbent elected board member, Cleve Stockmeyer, and one of Laws' opponents in the Sept. 20 primary, Beth Goldberg. They came seeking the paper's endorsement, which will be published Sept. 7. Because seven other members of the board are appointed by the mayor, the City Council, or the board itself, Laws and Stockmeyer are in the unfortunate position of being the only people directly answerable to taxpayers for the monorail mire. Laws and Stockmeyer pointed out that they also are the most likely to dissent in any given decision.
When asked why the board allowed itself to be kept in the dark about specifics of the bid and the developing plan to finance it, Stockmeyer and Laws said the staff generally was not forthcoming about such details, and the unpaid board of smart but busy people didn't want to micromanage. Besides, Laws said, on two occasions, one in a closed meeting of the board, "Joel Horn flat-out lied to us" when asked about reports in Seattle Weekly last Nov. 3 and in The Seattle Times Feb. 16 that the Cascadia bid was about $200 million too high. Laws said Horn replied that it wasn't true. In fact, it was.
Laws also said that the friendship between Horn and Weeks hampered the board. Weeks should have been advocating for the board in its oversight role and dealing with the staff in a more detached manner, Laws said.
Stockmeyer said he will propose that a measure be placed on the November ballot to make five of the nine board positions elected. But he and Laws think Mayor Greg Nickels' recent demand that the board ask voters to determine the project's future is hasty, given that $100 million spent is unrecoverable if the project is terminated. (See Mossback)