IF THERE'S ONE THING City Commissioner Dan Saltzman has been mentioning a lot in his reelection bid, it's his Children's Levy. But Saltzman has been far less candid about the fact that in his role as allocation committee chair of the levy, he voted to make a contribution of $600,000 to his girlfriend's employer—all without declaring a conflict of interest to the board.
Saltzman's girlfriend, Liz Burns, is a development specialist at Cares Northwest, a worthy nonprofit that works with victims of child abuse. The charity is a collaboration between local hospitals, and it has been running successfully for over 20 years without any city money, before Saltzman voted for the allocation of the money to it last year.
Burns told the Mercury on Monday, May 3, that it was "common knowledge" that she and Saltzman were dating at the time.
"I'm not really involved with the grant writing or grant funding," she added. "I deal with individuals and small local companies."
This wasn't exactly true, since minutes from a January meeting of the Children's Levy board show Burns advocating for an expansion of the board's criteria to include Cares Northwest.
"That was when they were deciding how to divide up the money," Burns responds. "But they weren't in the grant procurement process."
Commissioner Saltzman's campaign manager referred us instead to Mary Gay Broderick, communications director at the Children's Levy.
Broderick seems a little perturbed by the omission, as it turns out. While it "wasn't a secret" that Saltzman and Burns were dating, she admits to what seems to be a little retrospective apprehension about the deal.
"I think that in retrospect, it would have been better if some kind of public disclosure had been made," she says.
"I think this is an ethical breach," says Jesse Cornett, who is running against Saltzman in the May primary.
"Dan does not think he needed to disclose the personal relationship," says Saltzman's chief of staff, Brendan Finn. "Cares Northwest was one of the highest scoring proposals, with over 90 percent. There's no economic interdependence between himself and Liz, and he's disappointed that folks are playing politics with the Children's Levy."