Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s top staffers used private email accounts to talk head-tax strategy

Four of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s staffers used private email accounts when planning with political consultants what to do immediately after the City Council reversed course on a controversial business head tax to raise money for housing and homelessness services, according to records released Friday to The Seattle Times.

The June 11 messages — shared via Gmail accounts among Stephanie Formas, then-Durkan’s top spokeswoman, and deputy mayors Mike Fong, David Moseley and Shefali Ranganathan — show that the mayor’s office considered the pending council vote to repeal the tax a done deal a day before the council formally voted to do so.

The discussion, which also looped in political consultants Sandeep Kaushik and Kelly Evans for feedback, raises questions about city officials’ use of private email or other channels to communicate about city business.

“What this shows me is that city officials are going offline by using Gmail accounts to get instructions from private interests, including outside consultants, for political purposes — and they don’t want the public or The Seattle Times to find out,” said attorney Lincoln Beauregard, who also obtained the records while litigating a lawsuit against the city related to the head-tax repeal. “It’s a deliberate evasion of the transparency laws.” (Read more…)