News Pat Davis: “Exonerated”
posted by June 28 at 16:59 PMon
The Port of Seattle Ethics Board released its Report to the Port Commissioners today.
This is the report on the fishy business of the $278,000 retirement payment promised to former Port director Mic Dinsmore in a memo signed by Port Commissioner Pat Davis in October 2006.
The report technically exonerates Davis, but it’s not hard to read between the lines.
While retired King County Judge Terrance Carroll, who conducted the investigation, concluded that Dinsmore’s retirement package probably was discussed in closed-door executive sessions (this had been the subject of heated disagreement between three commissioners who say discussions didn’t happen and two, including Davis, who say they did), Carroll’s report says “it is highly improbable that a detailed discussion…occurred.”
Carroll bases that finding on the fact that Dinsmore’s pay, in general, was a charged issue to start with. (There was a controversial vote on a Dinsmore pay raise last October.) Therefore, Carroll concluded, if Dinsmore’s pay had come up in any substantive way in executive session in January ‘07, it would have been memorable to everyone who was present.
Despite the fact that Davis was technically exonerated, it’s clear from reading between the lines of Carroll’s assessment that she purposefully avoided a substantive discussion of Dinsmore’s handsome payout during executive session. Her goal, it seems, was to upgrade Dinsmore’s retirement package without calling attention to it.
This point is made louder by Carroll’s additional assessments. He says that Davis was wrong to sign a memo authorizing Dinsmore’s big retirement package without circulating the memo to her fellow commissioners. He writes: “the Chair [Davis] mistakenly believed a consensus had developed regarding [Dinsmore’s retirement package.] It is clear that was not the case and could have easily been tested by circulating the memo prior to signature. She acknowledges it was a mistake not to do so.” Again, this “mistake” likely comes from the fact that Davis wanted to keep Dinsmore’s handsome payout from being scrutinized.
Carroll lets Davis off the hook, though, because the retirement package could not be implemented without formal board approval. And so, it never was. Therefore, nothing technically wrong ever went down.
It seems to me, given the fact that Carroll’s report also states that HR “was preparing Mr. Dinsmore’s termination documents” based on Davis’s memo, that Davis and Dinsmore were trying to pull a sneaky move. However, HR flagged the memo and showed it to the new Port CEO, and the whole thing blew up and came to a halt.
It seems—as evidenced by Davis’s low-key discussions of the package, her signature, and Dinsmore’s attempt to cash in—that the pair were trying to line up a big retirement package without getting the required approval. They got caught before any papers were signed and backed off.