Recalling the fox at the henhouse

Two weeks ago, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled that a recall effort against Port of Seattle Commissioner Pat Davis could proceed as planned. The unanimous ruling - which found that there was evidence of official malfeasance in Davis's secret 2006 guarantee of a lucrative golden parachute to retiring Port CEO Mic Dinsmore - was pretty unequivocal:"We can infer from the record that Commmissioner Davis understood her duties as Port commissioner and the legal necessity of voting in public session before potentially obligating the Port in any monetary agreement and, for purposes of recall, intentionally acted outside the scope of these duties by signing an agreement with Dinsmore."But the issue here isn't just Dinsmore's contract. For decades, the Port of Seattle - secure in its separate taxing authority for King County- has been the most corrupt and arrogant public agency in the state, which is saying something. The cronyism, back-scratching, sweetheart deals and corporate welfare know almost no bounds. And during each of her 22 years on the Port Commission, Davis has championed that cronyism and staunchly resisted any efforts at accountability and reform. (It was also her initiative that brought the World Trade Organization ministerial to Seattle in 1999.) For years, Pat Davis has exemplified everything wrong at the Port.RECALL NOWAfter the court ruling, Davis immediately announced that she wouldn't seek re-election when her term expires at the end of 2009. But she should still be recalled before then, for several reasons.First, she can still do a lot of damage (and cost taxpayers a lot of money) if left in a position of power for another 16 months.Second, Davis deserves to pay some price for her malfeasance - not simply to have a nice retirement party while her fellow commissioners name a wading pool after her (as they did for retiring crony Paige Miller in 2005). Or give Davis her own secret golden parachute.Third, even after a scathing performance audit by state auditor Brian Sonntag - and an ongoing federal criminal investigation for fraud triggered by that audit - the Port has been dismissive, defensive and bitterly resistant to meaningful changes in its crony-ist culture. In that context, get a load of this quote from fellow Port Commissioner Gael Tarleton - who ran on a "reform" platform last year, despite questions about her own corporate conflicts of interest - in arguing against the recall effort. Davis and Tarleton, it turns out, are working together to "implement" some of Sonntag's demanded reforms. In other words, now that the fox has eaten every hen and destroyed the henhouse, she is standing, hammer and nails in paw, and undoubtedly hungry again, ready to build the new henhouse. And, according to Tarleton: "If we did not have [Davis'] knowledge about how things did not work in a transparent and open way in the past, we would not have been able to make many of the most important revisions to the delegation of authority."Fourth, beyond making sure Davis can do no more damage, as Tarleton and the response to the performance amply demonstrate, Davis is scarcely the whole problem at the Port. That audit barely scratched the surface: It only looked at Sea-Tac International Airport's third-runway project. It did not examine other airport projects, anything in the marine division (where corporate contractors have bankrolled many a port commissioner campaign), or the Port's lucrative waterfront real estate development projects on the central downtown waterfront and the north shore of Elliott Bay. And the audit wasn't looking for fraud (though it found plenty anyway). RECALL PETITIONSWhat all this suggests is that there's an ingrained, corrupt culture at the Port of Seattle that needs to be uprooted. The staff, commissioners and CEO must all be held accountable. Recalling Pat Davis demonstrates that there's a price to be paid for betraying the public trust - and maybe, just maybe, some of the other foxes at the Port will either change their own behavior or get turned out themselves, if the precedent of recalling Davis moves forward.The public has had enough of this nonsense. It's time to fight back. Petitions to recall Pat Davis are available at Sign one today.Community activist and columnist Geov Parrish can be reached at[[In-content Ad]]