Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Port driver tried to draw cash at casino, on work card; lied

by Matt Rosenberg April 4th, 2013

A Port of Seattle driver used his work procurement card to try to withdraw money at the Emerald Queen Casino in Fife, then lied to an internal investigator about it, implicating his wife instead, before coming clean and getting a seven-day suspension. The news comes on the heels of a series of ethics lapses at the Port in recent months and years including contracting improprieties, internal theft, use of work computers and working hours to view pornography, and now also the failure of Port staff to reveal commissioners’ expenses, online, as directed.

The casino episode involving Port Marine Maintenance driver Laeva Solo, of Seatac, is detailed in Port investigative findings obtained by Public Data Ferret through a public records request of the Port for a range of documents on workplace ethics probes.

According to the report, submitted to Port Workplace Responsibility Officer Vickie Rawlins from investigator Tony Ramos, Solo had in June, 2011 signed a form acknowledging that use of his Port “P-Card” or procurement credit card was to be only for work purposes, not for anything personal. But Bank of America records showed that a Port P-Card later determined to have been the one issued to Solo was used at the Emerald Queen Casino at 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday, last September 30, in two unsuccessful attempts to withdraw cash. The first attempt was for $202 and the second for $62.

Denied using card at casino, implicated wife
Less than two weeks later in an interview with Ramos also attended by a union representative, plus Solo’s immediate supervisor and the Port’s Director of Labor Relations Gary Schmitt, Solo confirmed the card in question was his and that he knew about the limitations on its use. He told the group he’d never used his Port P-Card for personal purposes, and denied having used it Sunday, September 30 or knowing who might have. However he then suggested that due to vision problems related to recent eye surgery, his wife might have mistakenly taken it and used it. He denied having been at the Emerald Queen Casino September 30, maintaining he was at home.

“I was drinking man, I honestly can’t remember….”
But the next day Solo phoned Ramos and told him, according to the report, that “he now recalled going to the Emerald Queen Casino” the morning of Sunday, September 30 after a wedding in Lakewood, Wash. that started the night before. Asked by Ramos if he’d used his Port P-Card to try to withdraw cash at the casino, Solo said, “S***, man, I don’t know, maybe by mistake, I don’t know. I was drinking, man I honestly can’t remember. I know you said they have cameras and stuff, if my picture is on there during the morning then yeah, it was me, I probably did it.” Solo added, “…I know it’s pretty s***** of me to be blaming my wife, that’s f***** up, if it was in the morning, it was me.”

Report concludes Solo responsible, and made false statements
The report concluded Solo tried to withdraw cash at the casino using his Port P-Card on September 30, that he was off-duty and drinking alcohol at the time, that his use of the card violated Port policy, and that he “was not initially forthcoming” and made false statements to Ramos. He was subsequently placed on leave without pay for seven days, said Port spokesman Jason Kelly.

Solo’s case is one of a number of instances of ethics transgressions or questionable workplace conduct that continue to accumulate at the Port, which has large responsibilities to the region and taxpayers. It operates Sea-Tac Airport, and marine shipping terminals and its elected commissioners approve and oversee a combined operating and capital budget of $776.1 million in 2013 and a five-year $1.86 billion capital improvement plan, while trying to build the regional economy and advance global trade. The Port’s spending is supported by sources including airport landing fees and passenger taxes, marine cargo fees, concessions, rents, issuing bonds, and a levy of 23 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on properties in King County.

Port staff cited for failure to reveal commissioners’ expenses, as directed

  • This week, the Port’s Internal Audit staff sought committee approval to delay until next year a planned audit of the Commission Office operation. However the related staff memo identified some concerns already evident from work to date on the audit. These included per diem overpayments for one Port commissioner, the need for improved controls over per diem payments, the compromising of Port procurement and chit cards (without cash losses), and Port staff’s failure since last April to adhere to a Commission directive to post information online about Port commissioners’ expense reimbursements.
  • Port Commissioner Rob Holland resigned in February after revelations including misuse of his Port procurement card and having a lewd photo on his Port-issued cell phone.
  • As we reported last week, a Port worker named David John Swensen was found to have used his workplace computer to repeatedly viewed pornography and admitted he “accidentally” accessed child pornography at work. None of the latter was found in a search of computers he used, which investigators said had been wiped clean of some files. There were no criminal charges but he was dismissed.
  • State audits in 2007 and late 2010 found, respectively, major improprieties in Port bid-awarding for runway construction work at Sea-Tac Airport and a series of internal thefts at the Port.

  • Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

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