Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Sound Transit to pay penalty to state disclosure commission

by Matt Rosenberg April 28th, 2011

SUMMARY: Sound Transit has agreed to a pay a $15,000 civil penalty – with half the amount conditionally suspended – for violating state law requiring timely filing of lobbying expenses. The penalty stems from 21 quarterly reports from Sound Transit to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) that were late by as little as 52 days and as much as more than four years. They covered more than $500,000 in contract lobbying expenses that had already been disclosed by vendors, but also included almost $150,000 in employee lobbying and more than $16,000 in related expenses, that had not been previously reported within legal deadlines. Sound Transit says it will ensure no such future oversights occur. The PDC is expected to approve the enforcement agreement at its meeting today.

BACKGROUND: Washington state law requires local, regional and special purpose governments and state agencies which lobby state legislators, to file so-called L-5 quarterly forms with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission on a timely basis disclosing that lobbying and its estimated dollar value. Lobbying – defined in state law as seeking to influence the passage or defeat of legislation or similar action – may be done by contractors and employees. Sound Transit is a regional public transit agency covering a large portion of Central Puget Sound, where it provides light rail, commuter rail and express bus service. It’s overseen by an 18-member board including 17 elected officials and the Washington State Secretary of Transportation.

Public Data Ferret archive: Disclosure

KEY LINK: Washington State Disclosure Commission Enforcement Action Against Sound Transit, April 21, 2011 (on agenda of PDC’s April 28, 2011 meeting).

KEY FINDINGS:

  • Sound Transit on July 9, 2010 filed 21 L-5 reports covering the quarters from January 1, 2006 through March 31, 2010. The reports were late by as little as 52 days and as much as more than four years.
  • The reports disclosed lobbying expenses of $682,136, of which $516,000 had already been reported in other forms submitted by contract lobbyists working for Sound Transit. However, the reports also revealed $149,731 in employee lobbying and $16,405 in related expenses that had not been reported on time, in accordance with state disclosure law. The L-5 reports are due the last day of the month following the end of each quarter covered by the report.
  • Sound Transit committed multiple violations of state law – RCW 42.17.190 (5) – by failing to file its L-5 lobbying reports on time.
  • Sound Transit agrees to pay a civil penalty of $15,000 with half that amount suspended so long as it commits no further lobbying disclosure violations for four more years and pays the rest within 60 days.
  • Sound Transit’s General Counsel says a senior attorney will work with staff to ensure future lobbying disclosure filings are made within the required period, in compliance with state law.

Comments are closed.