You tell me:
- SALTZMAN: STAFF CLAIM THIS IS "NOT A CAMPAIGN ISSUE"
Yesterday we broke a story about City Commissioner Dan Saltzman failing to disclose a conflict before voting to give $600,000 in taxpayer dollars to his girlfriend's charity.
Saltzman's girlfriend, Liz Burns, told the Mercury yesterday that she wasn't involved in this particular grant:
Saltzman's girlfriend, Liz Burns, is a development specialist at Cares NW, a worthy nonprofit that works with victims of child abuse. The charity had been running successfully for over 20 years without any city money as a collaboration between local hospitals, before Saltzman voted for the allocation of the money to it last year. Burns says it was "common knowledge" that she and Saltzman were dating at the time, and that she thinks it would have been "inappropriate" for him to bring the matter to the attention of the levy board at the public meeting to vote on the funding.
“I’m not really involved with the grant writing or grant funding," she adds. "I deal with individuals and small local companies."
But that's not strictly true, it seems. At least, it's not clear, if Burns wasn't involved with this particular grant, why she came to a meeting of the Children's Levy in January last year, representing Cares NW. If you take a look at the minutes of that meeting (PDF), here's what Burns had to say. It seems she was at the meeting, advocating for the Levy to broaden its definition of what might qualify for a grant, to include Cares NW:
I am Liz Burns and I work for CARES Northwest. We are looking at your definition of kids in foster care which is kids who are currently in foster care or have aged out. What we see at CARES Northwest is a spectrum; their legal custody may be DHS, but they are in their parent’s custody. You may want to expand the definition to include children trying to be put back with the family. They can go through a period where they are moving in and out of foster care. It is important they have access to the same service throughout that time. Cutting off services can undermine the work of reuniting families. Perhaps being within a year of a foster home referral is acceptable.
And oddly, in this meeting, shortly before Burns is quoted in the minutes, this happened:
[Commissioner Saltzman left the meeting. Chair Wheeler took over as Chair.]
"I've read the minutes, thank you," she says. "That was when they were deciding how to divide up the money, but they weren’t in the grant procurement process."
But that's a pretty fine line, isn't it? I mean, after our conversation yesterday, I was under the impression that Burns never went near this particular grant. Now, it appears she advocated to the Levy board five months before the grant was given, for the Levy to broaden its criteria to include Cares NW.
"Frankly I said a lot of things that weren’t in your little article that you didn’t include," she said.
Well, I'm asking if you misrepresented your role in the procurement, I said.
"I’m an employee of Legacy Health, and we have people who do communications here," she said.
And that was the end of the conversation. We've got a request for comment in to Saltzman's office asking why he left the meeting before Burns spoke, and will update this post when his office comes back to us.
Update, 5/4/10 Update, on the Children's Levy Bylaws. Has Saltzman's girlfriend ever paid for dinner? Well, then he may have violated the bylaws. In particular read section 2 of article 11:
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Section 2. Gifts. No member may accept, on his or her own behalf, or on behalf of the Allocation Committee any contribution, gift, bequest or devise valued at greater than $10 from any organization, or any individual representing an organization, that is currently seeking funding from the Allocation Committee, or which that member knows will in the future seek funding from the Allocation Committee. Notwithstanding the above, elected officials who serve on the Allocation Committee are not precluded from receiving complementary tickets to social events, fundraisers and other similar activities.