Collaboration in Civic Spheres

$61K DSHS supe used work as playground, pays $1.5K fine

by March 28th, 2012

A supervisor at the Washington state Department of Social and Health Services has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1,500 for using state time and equipment for his own interests, in apparent violation of the state’s Ethics in Public Service Act, according to an order approved March 16 by the Washington State Executive Ethics Board. Kevin McStay, 44, of Gig Harbor, who was classified as a “Social Worker 4” unit supervisor for DSHS, in 2008 and 2009 used work hours and equipment to promote his rock band (named “Classic Ride”). According to a whistleblower report by the state auditor which led to the ethics board action, witnesses conveyed that McStay “disrupted colleagues in the office” and “did not complete his work because of the amount of time he spent on personal matters.”

UW: $100K-plus Harborview supe faked hours for more pay

by March 26th, 2012

Another case of employee ethical misconduct at King County’s Harborview Medical Center – operated by the University of Washington’s UW Medicine unit – has come to light, and is expected to be highlighted in an upcoming Washington state auditor’s office investigative report. Using the Washington Public Records Act, Public Data Ferret has obtained a copy of an October 2011 UW internal audit describing the falsification of work hours records, leading to unearned pay of almost $9,000 by a nuclear medicine technologist-supervisor in Harborview’s radiology department, named Terza S. Koches. She was already earning more than $100,000 per year. Her registered voter address is in West Seattle’s Fairmount Park neighborhood.

Court says Kirkland firm must answer age bias firing charge

by March 22nd, 2012

In a ruling published this week the Washington State Court of Appeals reversed a “summary judgement” signed by King County Superior Court Judge Douglass A. North that a yard foreman working in Dutch Harbor, Alaska for a Kirkland, Wash.-based marine services firm essentially had no basis for claiming he was fired due to age discrimination – rather than intoxication and disorderly conduct, as his employer claimed. The decision by Division One of the state appeals court means that Craig Rice of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, will be able to proceed in King County Superior Court in Washington state with his age bias lawsuit against Offshore Systems, Inc. (OSI), headquartered at 12019 76th Place NE in Kirkland.

Review, comment on our Knight News Challenge bid

by March 22nd, 2012

It’s brief, and we hope you’ll take a look at our Public Data Ferret project’s entry in the Knight News Challenge funding competition, for innovative news start-ups. Add a supportive comment if you like – very soon please – finalists will be announced April 2 – and share the link and a brief introduction with your networks on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr. The theme this round is use of existing “networks” and platforms, which includes what we do: building on online government information sources; and building awareness and working partnerships around our work in the community. We’re humbled by the supportive response so far, that you’ll see in the 40-plus comments from hyper-local bloggers, news professionals, technologists, educators, students, readers and others. Here are several comments among the many posted that really capture the value propositions we’re trying to embody.

Ex-Marine, and ex-Seattle news exec warn U.S. Senate against overly broad disclosure shields

by March 21st, 2012

In a recent testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee, a retired Marine and a national proponent of government transparency with long and deep ties to Seattle, ratcheted up concerns about a recent military attempt to censor from the public eye information on drinking water and public health risks. Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger (Ret.), who believes his daughter died of leukemia as a result of contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in 1985, was disappointed that the U.S. Marine Corps decided to remove from an official study, information regarding locations of water sources in the area. It has been the latest in a series of hurdles he has had to overcome in the case.

Ex-Bellevue teacher, SPU innovator jailed for sex crimes

by March 20th, 2012

A then-resident of Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood who had deep ties to Seattle Pacific University during his tenure as a science teacher in the Bellevue school district, this month had his state teaching license permanently revoked following a guilty plea last fall to sex crimes with a Bellevue student when she was 15 and 16 years old. Sentencing papers show Matthew James Jones, now 32, is serving two 15-month terms concurrently after he pled guilty in September, 2011 to two felony counts of first degree sexual misconduct with a minor, a girl he taught as a middle-schooler in Bellevue. State corrections records indicate he’s now incarcerated in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Although his Spring, 2011 arrest was widely reported, there had been no news coverage of the actual outcomes.

Shoreline parks smoking ban survey draws pointed views

by March 19th, 2012

With a planned discussion of a recent citizen survey and a presentation of what could be the final draft of a new ordinance, the Shoreline City Council March 19 is poised to move one step closer to a scheduled vote March 26 to ban all tobacco use in all parts of all the city’s parks and other city outdoor recreation spaces. Enforcement would be voluntary, by parks patrons, not police, and city costs for signs would range from $3,000 to $5,000. Although almost 70 percent of respondents in the online survey supported the proposed blanket smoking ban in Shoreline city parks facilities, comments varied widely. In a special information packet on the policy, for the council’s review March 19, city staff provide the survey results including a broad sampling of residents reactions; while also sharing the proposed final draft of the smoke-free parks ordinance.

In the non-scientific survey accessed at the city’s Web site, ban opponents argued that smoking is legal, not very harmful outdoors, and that peer-to-peer enforcement would be risky. Among their comments:

TVW video of Seattle conference panel on open government’s future

by March 13th, 2012

In 1972 Washington state voters were concerned about government accountability and ethics for a wide variety of reasons, some emanating from within the state and some from without. As a result they approved Initiative 276, creating an initial version of what is now the state’s Public Records Act, as well as the state Open Meetings Act and the state Public Disclosure Commission. The PDC daylights and regulates campaign contributions to and financial interests of elected officials. The successful citizen activists who launched and propelled the I-276 campaign later morphed into what is now the Washington Coalition For Open Government.

This past Saturday March 10, WACOG held a conference looking at the impetus leading to I-276’s passage, while also celebrating the present-day successes of citizen activists for public transparency, and looking at what the future holds. I was honored to be part of that latter panel on behalf of the 501c3 Public Eye Northwest and our Public Data Ferret project. Other guests were civic apps developer Ram Arumugan of Cascade Software Corporation; City of Seattle CIO/CTO Bill Schrier; and TVW President and CEO Greg Lane. Moderator was Mike Fancher – Vice President of WACOG and former Seattle Times Executive Editor.

Right below we’ve got the full 60-minute video of that forum, as aired on TVW, Washington state’s non-profit public affairs TV channel. Fancher began by framing the conversation in the context of the Knight Commission’s special report in 2010, “Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy In The Digital Age,” which he helped author. Among the findings that still resonate strongly, he said, are that:

  • “…the information health of communities is as vital as safe streets, clean air, good schools and a vibrant economy, but…we don’t tend to think of information health in that way;” and,
  • “…the same technology that is disrupting professional media and causing the loss of so many journalistic resources in so many communities is also creating great opportunities for journalism and democracy.”

Here’s the video on the panel looking at open government’s future, including the role of technology and new media.

TVW has also posted the video of the day’s panel, “Open Government’s Past: Birth and Survival of I-276.” It features David Ammons, former AP Olympia Bureau reporter and now communications chief for Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed; Karen Hildt, widow of I-276 campaign leader Michael Hildt; and former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton.


Ram Arumugan, Cascade Software, “How Technology Should Be Used To Spur Open Government,” Geek Wire, March 11, 2012.

Matt Rosenberg, Amplify Accountability, Technology To Boost Open Government,” Knight Commission blog, March 12, 2012.