Other People's Money: City Hall Edition


It’s that time of year again-- the annual window into the finances of our public servants courtesy of the disclosure statements they must file with the Ethics and Elections Commission, chuck-full of juicy tidbits about their investments and their vacation homes.

Newly elected council member Tim Burgess, until recently, had a flat in London's Islington neighborhood. He says he purchased it for work purposes, when he was regularly visiting the London offices of his PR firm, The Domain Group.

However, though Burgess still has a 50 percent stake in the UK office of the business, he says he doesn't get to London much anymore, in large part because of his new full-time gig at the council. "I don’t do any hands-on stuff with the business at this time," Burgess says. "Plus, it's too expensive over there to visit." He says he and his wife sold the flat a few weeks back. Too bad. London is pleasant this time of year.

Speaking of pleasant places to visit, Jean Godden has long had a "cabin" on Lummi Island, as well as some property in a waterfront development called Lummi Island Scenic Estates.

Longtime West Seattle resident Mayor Greg Nickels, inherited another West Seattle Home last year after his father passed away. But Nickels isn't planning to amass more westside holdings, spokesperson Marty McOmber says he's already sold it.

In addition to his Seward Park home, Council member Richard McIver owns a home currently occupied by his daughter in Hearne, Texas. Bruce Harrell owns two Seattle homes, one in Mt. Baker and one near Seward Park; and Tom Rassmussen has a house in West Seattle and one on Queen Anne.

Council members earn between $103,878 and $113,587 a year depending on when they were elected. But some also have extra curricular activities. The mayor, for example, is a member of government and business associations like Enterprise Seattle, the Puget Sound Regional Council and the Trade Development Alliance.

And there are the spouses, of course. Harrell's wife Joann is a director at REI and Burgess' wife Joleen works as a consultant for the University of Washington. But the most creative business combo goes to City Attorney Tom Carr's wife Theresa, an ethics lawyer who runs a consulting firm for businesses and a ski school for kids out of the same office on Admiral Way, listed on the form as "Ethics Ski."

The newest additions to city council, Harrell and Burgess, appear to be among the wealthiest. Though it’s tough to tell for certain because income and investments are only categorized with numbers corresponding to increments of tens of thousands of dollars-- and there's nothing to denote anything over $100,000.

Harrell in 2007 owned between $4,000 and $19,000 of stock in Safeco, the Seattle firm recently purchased by Liberty Mutual for $6.2 billion, a boon to stockholders of more than 50 percent per share. Burgess’ wide ranging portfolio includes stock in Alaska Airlines and high-tech firms like Hutchinson Technology, Sycamore Networks and pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Carr also owns stock in Pfizer as well as in Intel, Boeing, Microsoft and Wal-Mart.

Perhaps living the most modestly, neither Sally Clark, Nick Licata or Richard Conlin have second homes or additional properties listed on their disclosure forms and Clark's the only council member with a car payment.

Most of the council appear to have healthy IRA’s. But poor Nickels' retirement account in 2007 included 2000 shares of beleaguered local bank Washington Mutual. Wonder if he was one of the shareholders present to boo the board at it's annual meeting last month.

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