Recall backers call for hearing as Sawant admits Tax Amazon ethics violation

Councilmember Kshama Sawant has admitted violating city elections and ethics code and will pay a penalty of $3,515.74 — double the amount of city funds her office spent promoting the Tax Amazon ballot initiative.

Organizers for the Recall Sawant campaign say the admission and fine is a major win for their campaign and are calling for a public hearing.

The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission is scheduled to vote on approving the negotiated settlement at a Monday special meeting.

In the agreement, Sawant admits wrongdoing in her office’s efforts to champion a Tax Amazon initiative that supporters said would be taken to the ballot if the city council did not act to create a new tax on large companies in the city. The Seattle City Council passed the $200 million JumpStart tax on big businesses in July.

The settlement says Sawant’s office created posters supporting the initiative, promoted Tax Amazon on her official city website, and spent around $1,700 of city money promoting the initiative with advertising and messaging. Continue reading

Missing texts from Mayor Durkan, Chief Best, and Fire Chief Scoggins cloud CHOP investigations

Durkan addressing a crowd of protesters in May 2020 as Fire Chief Scoggins looks on

Who ordered the abandonment of the East Precinct? If the answer is in the text messages of Mayor Jenny Durkan, former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, or Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, we may never know.

Texts from the three key Seattle leaders from the critical weeks last June around the formation of the Capitol Hill protest zone and the decision for Seattle Police to pull out of the East Precinct have gone missing city officials and lawyers suing the city say, the Seattle Times reports:

The Fire Department didn’t immediately comment Friday evening. The Police Department didn’t provide a reason Best’s messages are gone. Best retired in September and now appears on television as a law enforcement analyst. “SPD turned over all requested phones to the City Attorney’s Office,” the department said in a statement. “SPD understands that the vendor hired by the City Attorney’s Office to retrieve data advised that it was unable to retrieve Chief Best’s text messages for a period of time. While SPD understands that the City Attorney’s Office has been in communication with Chief Best on this point, SPD is not able to comment substantively on matters relating to pending litigation.”

The Times says Durkan’s chief of staff said the mayor’s missing texts were an “unknown technology issue” and the city “hired a consultant to conduct forensic work on Durkan’s phones, but the consultant has yet to write an analysis on what happened.” A log from the city’s service provider was used to recreate some of the mayor’s text records but not all, the mayor’s office says. Continue reading

‘Failures to act’ — City of Seattle sued over death of teen gunned down at CHOP

A tribute being left to Lorenzo Anderson — Lil Mob — last June

A federal lawsuit has been filed against the City of Seattle on behalf of the mother of Lorenzo Anderson, the 19-year-old shot and killed last June at 10th and Pine on the edge of the CHOP protest area.

“The City had no effective plan for providing police protection, fire protection, or other emergency services into the surrendered area,” the federal civil rights suit alleges, accusing the city and Seattle Police of “failures to act, including abandoning the SPD East Precinct and CHOP.”

Prosecutors say 18-year-old Marcel Long shot and killed Anderson at 10th and Pine in a fracas after what witnesses said was a night of gambling and fireworks around CHOP which had been formed for just over a week. Long has been charged but remains at large.

In the federal lawsuit brought by the Herrmann Law Group on behalf of Anderson’s mother Donnitta Sinclair, the appellants allege the city violated 14th Amendment due process rights and is negligent in Anderson’s death.

“By abandoning CHOP and approving a ‘no-cop’ zone where police only entered CHOP in the event of ‘life-threatening’ crimes, and sometimes not even then, the City created a danger,” the legal team writes. “Violence was foreseeable, but no working response was prepared.” Continue reading

After long court battle over $3 fee, Pagliacci settles $3.75M wage theft lawsuit with drivers

Capitol Hill-headquartered Pagliacci has settled a $3.75 million class action lawsuit brought on behalf of the Seattle pizza chain’s delivery drivers who sued over the company’s wage practices including “failing to pay delivery drivers the automatic ‘delivery charge’ paid by customers” and not passing along tips.

The wage theft settlement was reached earlier this year but announced by the E Pike headquartered chain Wednesday bringing a four-year court battle over the $3 delivery fee to a close.

“Pagliacci has engaged in a systematic scheme of wage and hour abuses against its pizza delivery drivers,” lawyers wrote in the 2017 complaint that kicked off the long legal tussle.

In a statement sent to media, Pagliacci said when the company first added the service charge, “it failed to state in all the places required by state statute precisely who received the money from the delivery fee.” Continue reading

State Supreme Court rules Sawant recall can move forward — UPDATE

(Image: Kshama Solidarity)

(Image: Kshama Solidarity)

The recall of Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant can go forward, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday. A spring and summer of signature gathering, rallying, and campaign flyers awaits.

Organizers outlined four acts they say that warranted sending the recall to the ballot. Most of the charges were from 2020 and relate to her response to protests against police brutality and systemic racism.

The court did not uphold all of the allegations made by the recall effort, arguing that one of the acts outlined was legally insufficient.

In September, the King County Superior Court certified a recall petition against the socialist council member on the four allegations, which was simply ruling on whether the charges outlined could be grounds for removal. That court was not ruling on whether or not the allegations were true. Two allegations from the original proposed petition relating to Sawant’s involvement in protests at the East Precinct and the formation of CHOP were dropped by the recall group’s attorneys.

With the court denying Sawant’s appeal, the recall proponents will have up to 180 days to gather a little over 10,000 signatures — or 25% of the nearly 43,000 votes cast in her November 2019 race — to send the issue to the ballot.

Sawant’s political fate will now move into the hands of District 3 voters.

“The recall law in Washington State is inherently undemocratic and well-suited for politicized use against working people’s representatives, because there is no requirement that the charges even be proven true,” Sawant said in a statement following the decision. “In effect, the courts have enormous leeway to use recall elections as a mechanism to defend the ruling class and capitalist system. It is no accident that Seattle’s last elected socialist, Anna Louise Strong, was driven out of office by a recall campaign for her links to the labor movement and opposition to World War I.”

“Big biz and the right wing are furious about the impact of socialist politics and social movements in Seattle & how we have inspired working people around the country,” the campaign formed to defend Sawant against recall posted on Twitter after the decision. “They are now trying to use the courts & their deep pockets to overturn Councilmember Sawant’s 2019 re-election and the historic victories she has spearheaded.”

After facing a deficit on Election Night 2019, Sawant clawed back to defeat Broadway Business Improvement Area leader Egan Orion by around 4% — or less than 2,000 votes — and now sits as the longest serving member of the city council.

The recall effort argues Sawant misused her office and flouted coronavirus social distancing restrictions in opening City Hall to hundreds of protesters one night last June. Continue reading

More allegations of abuse and civil rights violations added to Seattle Black Lives Matter protesters lawsuit

The roster of plaintiffs has ballooned to nearly 100 and the driver in the deadly crash that killed an activist during a protest on I-5 has been added as a defendant in the sprawling personal injury, wrongful death, and civil rights lawsuit brought by protesters against Seattle and Olympia.

The lawsuit now names 55 parties including the estate of Summer Taylor, the Capitol Hill activist hit and killed by a speeding driver as Washington State Patrol closed I-5 during the July protest, plus another 40 anonymous “Doe” defendants.

“The BLM/George Floyd protests continue to this day, and have resulted in additional injuries not just to these Plaintiffs but countless others, including other individuals represented by the undersigned counsel,” the legal team for the plaintiffs writes. Continue reading

Welcome to the Former Anarchist Jurisdiction of Capitol Hill Seattle

How it ended — Get your Former Anarchist Jurisdiction designs here from litlnemo

A limp attempt late in the Trump administration to punish Seattle for Black Lives Matter protests and seize on right wing panic around the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest has drifted into history.

Welcome to the Capitol Hill Not So Autonomous Zone of the Former Anarchist Jurisdiction of Seattle, Washington.

President Joe Biden this week reversed the September 2020 Trump administration designation that attempted to penalize three major left-leaning cities — New York, Portland, and Seattle — in federal funding decisions because they were not cracking down on protests following the police-killing of George Floyd. Continue reading

Seattle firefighter in Sawant email threat case charged with identity theft and ‘cyberstalking’

The most serious crime in the investigation of email threats against Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant might not end up being the threats.

Seattle Fire Department firefighter Andrew Finseth has been charged with second degree identity theft — a felony — and two counts of misdemeanor cyberstalking. The King County Prosecutor’s office did not pursue a charge of felony harassment. “This charging decision is based on our independent review of the investigation materials referred to us by Seattle Police investigators,” the office said in a statement to media.

Both a felony harassment charge and a second degree identity theft charge in Washington are considered Class C felonies, punishable by up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

CHS reported here on Finseth’s arrest after police determined the firefighter had accessed the email account of another Seattle Fire employee to send threats targeting Sawant. Continue reading

Burglary suspect faces charges after being busted twice in high-end Capitol Hill business break-ins

A man police say is a prolific but mostly unsuccessful burglar is facing charges in two Capitol Hill break-ins part of a wave of commercial break-ins that have plagued the area.

Reported burglaries were up 60% across the East Precinct in 2020, according to SPD stats.

Anthony Swanson, 22, has been booked into King County Jail six times since May after arrests for investigation of burglary, vehicle theft, and possession of stolen items. The seventh booking in February for failure to appear in court on one of those burglary comes as Swanson has now been charged for three break-ins including two at high-end Capitol Hill retailers. Continue reading

FBI: Florida ‘hardcore leftist’ charged with federal threats traveled to CHOP to be part of ‘revolution’

From Baker’s now suspended Twitter account

The process of justice around a wave of political unrest last month including a violent crowd that formed in Olympia and the storming of the Capitol in Washington D.C. has netted another individual with a connection to our Capitol Hill.

Florida man Daniel Baker has been charged with transmitting an interstate communication “containing a threat to kidnap any person or threat to injure the person of another” after he “issued a call to arms for like-minded individuals to violently confront protesters gathered at the Florida Capitol.”

The FBI describes Baker as a heavily armed “hardcore leftist” who traveled the world including fighting the Turkish government with the Syrian Kurdish Army, the YPG, in the Middle East and allege the army veteran posted threats against military officers and police on social media.

According to the FBI, Baker’s 2020 travels “to participate in protests that have resulted in violence” also brought him to Seattle where he became part of the scene at CHOP including on the late June night of this deadly shootout that left a 16-year-old dead and a 14-year-old gravely wounded. Continue reading