At least three employees of the Seattle Department of Transportation have been fined hundreds of dollars for using their access cards to park their personal vehicles in city-owned garages without paying daily rates.
The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission confirmed the settlement agreements during its most recent meeting. Executive Director Wayne Barnett says the commission became aware of the issue because of a complaint.
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According to documents, all three employees work as street use inspectors. The SEEC chose 60 days from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31, 2018 to study access records at the SeaPark garage behind the Municipal Court Building and the garage in the Seattle Municipal Tower. Records show that the employees would use their passes to enter the garage and park their personal vehicles, before taking out city owned vehicles for their job.
City employees are only supposed to use the access cards for city purposes. Use for their personal vehicles is prohibited. According to the SEEC:
- Employee 1 violated the rules nine times during the 60 days the SEEC studied and was fined $360.
- Employee 2 & 3 violated the rules seven times during the same period and were each fined $280.
The SEEC settlement agreement notes the fines are twice the amount the employees would have paid for the $20 daily rate on the days they violated the rule.
KIRO 7 contacted SDOT and received the following statement:
"Last summer, it was brought to our attention that some employees may have been using City parking passes to park their personal vehicle in a City garage during work hours. Further investigation did not reveal any widespread misuse of City parking passes, but did indicate that some employees did not clearly understand the rules regarding use of these passes. We revised our policies to be more clear about the proper and improper use of these passes and worked with the employees to ensure that they understood the rules. To our knowledge, there have been no further incidents since this time."
The SEEC says that if the employees violate the settlement agreements, the commission could impose a fine of up to $5,000 per violation.
Earlier Seattle Municipal Court judge investigation
In 2014, a KIRO 7 investigation showed a Seattle Municipal Court judge driving to work alone when he claimed he had a carpool. That judge, Fred Bonner, improperly had a discounted parking rate at taxpayer expense for more than a decade.
Bonner claimed he was carpooling and first received the discounted rate in January 2004, saving between $70 and $140 each month going forward -- at the expense of taxpayers who elected him.
Bonner stopped using the discounted rate in August 2014, days before a KIRO 7 investigation showed he violated city regulations.
KIRO 7 followed Bonner for months, watching him drive to work alone. When confronted and asked about his conduct, Bonner lied multiple times. He also refused to give the names of the carpool participants he claimed to have.
Bonner, who lost his re-election bid after the KIRO 7 investigation and retired, agreed to not hold or seek any judicial office without getting approval from the commission. He also agreed to reimburse the city of the Seattle within one year for the amount he unfairly saved with the discounted carpool rate.
The exact amount is not included in the order of censure, but the amount is in the thousands. Follow this link to read Bonner’s entire order of censure.
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