Kshama Sawant To Grill City Light Chief Jorge Carrasco

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant met privately with embattled City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco two weeks ago and now plans to haul him before her Energy Committee next Wednesday to further review some of the embarrassing missteps that led to his pay raise request being rejected by the mayor.

“This is a public utility so it is up to me as chair of this committee to do due diligence,” Sawant told Seattle Weekly this morning before addressing a crowd of protestors gathered to stop an eviction of a West Seattle family.

When asked if she planned to call for Carrasco’s resignation, as has been rumored among some City Hall observers, the council’s lone socialist said, “That is not for me to say. My only interest is ensuring that there is transparency here.”

City Light spokesman Scott Thomsen, when queried about the specter of Sawant asking for his bosses’ resignation, said, “I have not heard that and I would not speculate on whether or not she will do that.”

UPDATE: Thomsen forwarded the following comment from Carrasco: "I respect the committee's oversight of Seattle City Light. If the committee has questions, it's important to answer them and continue to build trust with the council members."

Sawant, meanwhile, said she will ask the City Light superintendent – the second highest-paid public employee, behind only new police chief Kathleen O’Toole – to explain his rationale in pursuing deal with Brand.com. for $17,500 (as Jim Brunner at The Seattle Times reported), public money used to burnish his reputation and cleanse Google search of any negative stories, as well as drilling down on the con job committed by two men posing as Native Americans who convinced him to turn over to their bogus charity 20 tons of city-owned copper and scrap metal, valued at $120,000.

“I also want to talk to him about employee morale [ Ed. Note: Click here to see our cover story on Carrasco, “Short Fuse” ] – and his salary,” Sawant said. “This will be the first time he’s addressed all of this before the council.”

In light of all the misjudgments and transgressions, including Carrasco’s false statement to KIRO radio that he never asked for a raise, Mayor Ed Murray on July 2 said that the man who has led City Light since 2004 would not get the $60,000 raise Murray contemplated giving him mid-June. As a result, Carrasco’s salary remains at $245,000 a year.

The Seattle City Council voted 6-2 in June to grant an increase of up to $119,000 for Carrasco (council members Sawant and Nick Licata voted no), but that was before the Brand.com deal came to light, which two council members have told Seattle Weekly was the most damning revelation.

After a storm of bad publicity, Carrasco apologized on July 3 for the controversies that caused him to lose the $60,000 raise. Carrasco, at a hastily called news conference at City Light’s downtown headquarters, took “full responsibility” for falling for last year’s copper-theft scam and for approving the contract with the reputation management firm Brand.com.

“I am committed to making sure these things do not happen again, and we’ve put controls in place to make sure that that’s the case,” Carrasco said.

Still, Sawant is not entirely satisfied and is inviting Seattle residents to attend and speak at the Energy Committee meeting at City Hall, which begins at 9:30 a.m.

Sawant’s decision to bring Carrasco before the committee, which also includes council members Sally Clark and Mike O’Brien, is not sitting well among Sawant’s council colleagues. As one source at City Hall told the Weekly, “There are members who think this is one big grandstanding stunt on her part.”

 
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