City Light CEO has huge raise denied, mayor gives reasons

by: Essex Porter Updated:

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Quick Facts: 

  • Seattle City Light CEO raise denied after "political football," mayor said.
  • CEO makes $245,000 and would have made $364,000.
  • CEO Jorge Carrasco had raise approval from Seattle City Council.
  • He is already the city's highest-paid employee.
  • Mayor Ed Murray used his authority to deny the raise.

The Seattle City Light CEO will not get a massive salary increase, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said Wednesday morning.

Jorge Carrasco is already the city’s highest paid employee, making $245,000 annually. Last month, all but two of the Seattle City Council members voted to increase to his pay range by 45 percent to $364,000. The amount of the raise was to be determined by Murray.

Between the City Council vote and Murray’s announcement Wednesday, Carrasco lied in Friday afternoon interviews saying that he didn’t ask for the raise.

Carrasco told KIRO 7 reporter Chris Legeros he did not ask for a raise. He also repeated the lie to KIRO FM host Jason Rantz. On Sunday night, a City Light spokesman sent a statement saying Carrasco was expanding his answer.

“Carrasco did encourage Mayor Murray to recommend a pay band increase to the Seattle City Council in line with a 2013 market study of his position,” the statement said. “In so doing, he hoped it would result in a salary increase.”

City Light also planned to spend $47,000 in taxpayer funds to improve web search engine results for Carrasco’s name, hiring brand.com to try and better his image. Those two contracts were disclosed after a public document request and article by The Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner. City Light only spent $17,500 -- and they've asked for a refund based on the results.

“While they did not happen on my watch, I am not happy with how I learned about them,” Murray said Wednesday morning. “In addition, I think that there are questions around transparency and trust that need to be rebuilt as a result of this controversy.”

City councilmember Nick Licata voted against a higher salary for Carrasco and supports the Mayor’s decision, “It really speaks well of Mayor Murray’s willingness to listen to the public to look at what is not working out quite right and say this behavior should not be rewarded.

Murray said he would not increase Carrasco’s salary because it had become apparent it had become “a political football.” Instead Murray said he will find some form of independent determination around salary for City Light and perhaps city employees.

“We need to pay public employees what they’re worth,” Murray said, “and I don’t believe their salaries should be a political football.”

Carrasco also fell for a copper con, authorizing $120,000 worth of scrap metal and copper wire to go to men claiming to be members of the Cherokee Nation. The men said it would be used to help disabled children through a nonprofit. Three men have been charged with theft and trafficking stolen property, but are at large. Carrasco's role was first reported in December by seattlepi.com. A City Light news release didn't mention that the agency's CEO  himself was duped.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw supports the Mayor’s decision to withhold the raise, but also voted to allow the higher salary approved by the council. “This gives the Mayor the opportunity, if he’s looking for a successor at some time, I’m not saying that he is, but it provides that flexibility.”

The Mayor’s office says Carrasco has not offered his resignation, and Mayor Murray hasn’t asked for it. “It’s not one of my departments that’s in turmoil right now… that’s not City Light” the Mayor said. “It could have been just as easy for me to do politically say ‘ you’re done, you’re out of here’ but I don’t think I can justify that.” 

Click here to watch Carrasco’s June 27 interview with KIRO 7.

This story has been updated to clarify the brand.com contracts.

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