Port's New Storm


The special investigation team probing the spending at the Port of Seattle has turned up at least ten acts of fraud but "did not identify any embezzlement or [deal-making for] personal gain." Nonetheless, yesterday's findings released by team leader and former U.S. Attorney Mike McKay clearly indicate there's fodder there for McKay's former employer, the U.S. Dept. of Justice, which is already probing potential payoffs and kickbacks at the Port.

Not identifying personal gain doesn't mean it didn't happen - McKay was unable to subpoena records, he said, and could not get some people to talk. But the report clearly points federal investigators towards one questionable deal, involving construction of the new third runway at SeaTac. An unnamed Port employee handed secret bid specs to contracting conglomerate TTI, which later won the project and scored what McKay calls an "astonishing" 30 percent profit on the $125

million deal.

Did that employee leak those documents out of the good of his heart? And did TTI - a partnership of the Scarsella Brothers, Gary Merlino Construction, and Tri-State Construction - merely send him a thank you note? Those questions are sure to be asked by the feds, who began following the money after a state audit first revealed corrupt Port practices last year.

The arrogant coziness of the Port under then-CEO Mic Dinsmore is also on display in the new report. When Dinsmore wanted a Congresional internship for his daughter in D.C., he simply called up McBee Strategic Consulting, a D.C. lobbying firm that worked for the Port, and the personal favor (a job in Rep. Norm Dick's office) was quickly granted.

Among McBee's lobbyists then was former Port aviation director Gina Marie Lindsey, who today heads up airport operations in Los Angeles, where questions have arisen about her tenure here. After she went to McBee, the firm received $910,000 over five years of no-bid lobbying

contracts with the Port of Seattle.

Is the Port in better hands these days? Here's what CEO Tay Yoshitani had to say about the new report: "I stand by my word. Any staff member who has committed fraud will be appropriately disciplined and potentially terminated." Okay - unless that means "nearly fired."

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