Seattle City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco did a round of media interviews last week in an apparent effort to repair public-relations damage from recent controversies — from a copper theft scam to hiring a consulting firm with public money to boost his online image.
But it now looks like Carrasco’s media tour backfired, as he blundered into an unforced error in one of the interviews.
On KIRO radio, Carrasco was asked whether he’d sought the big pay raise that was recently authorized by the Seattle City Council.
The question from host Jason Rantz was straightforward: “Did you ask for a pay raise?”
Carrasco responded: “No. I think the, the — no I didn’t. I did not ask for a raise.”
KIRO reporter Brandi Kruse followed up by asking Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s office the same question in an email: Had Carrasco sought the raise? But Murray’s office dodged the query, responding that “the issue isn’t whether Jorge asked for a pay raise or didn’t ask… the issue is whether he is being paid fairly…,” according to a transcript of the exchange posted by the radio station.
KIRO kept asking for a straight yes or no answer, and host Dori Monson lambasted the city’s vague response. By Monday, other media outlets, including The Seattle Times, also demanded the mayor’s office answer the question.
On Monday evening, City Light issued a clarification through its press office, admitting Carrasco had sought an increase in his “pay band.”
“Carrasco did encourage Mayor Murray to recommend a pay band increase to the Seattle City Council in line with a 2013 market study of his position. In so doing, he hoped it would result in a salary increase,” the statement said.
City Light’s statement also noted that a city ordinance approved in 2003 requires a biannual review of the pay range for his job, “to ensure the position is competitive with other public utilities.”
The statement contained no apology or other explanation of why Carrasco gave the answer he did to KIRO.
Murray’s office had no additional comment Monday night.
Murray will decide exactly how much of a raise Carrasco deserves. Carrasco’s salary is currently $245,000 a year – which is less than that received by the heads of some smaller local public utilities such as Tacoma Power.
The recent council action authorized an increase of up to $119,000 a year. Murray’s office previously said the mayor was considering a $60,000 raise.