Top aides to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray were incredulous and angry at Seattle City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco’s bungled effort to respond to negative news stories this summer, newly released emails show.
First, a little background. Carrasco had attempted an image-repair media tour in June after The Seattle Times published critical stories on him being duped by copper-thief con artists and on the utility’s decision to hire Brand.com to scrub negative articles about him from Google search results. The stories came at a time when Murray was considering a $60,000 pay raise for Carrasco.
Stung by the bad publicity, Carrasco went on several broadcast outlets in late June to do interviews and explain himself. But during a Friday, June 27 interview on KIRO radio, Carrasco made his problem worse by claiming he had not asked the mayor’s office for a pay raise.
That was not true. Behind the scenes, emails show Murray aides were not happy at the new problem Carrasco had created for them. The emails were recently released to The Seattle Times in response to a July 3 public-disclosure request.
KIRO reporter Brandi Kruse pressed Murray’s office to verify whether Carrasco had asked for a raise. Jeff Reading, Murray’s communications director, at first tried to dodge the question, saying it didn’t matter whether Carrasco had asked for the raise or not. But KIRO persisted. And The Seattle Times also demanded an answer.
Reading emailed Sephir Hamilton, chief of staff for Seattle City Light: “I don’t think we can say, or the Council can say, that he hasn’t asked for a raise.” He later emailed Hamilton a link to Carrasco’s KIRO inteview, adding “You can imagine how happy we are about being in this position.”
By Monday, June 30, Murray’s office had enough. Reading vented in an email to Murray chief-of-staff Chris Gregorich:
We are not going to continue managing this issue for Jorge — this is ridiculous.
I told KIRO that the Mayor supports the raise, believes it is justified based on a variety of factors, asked the Council to approve it and will continue to defend it.
But we can’t pretend the raise was our idea and I’m not going to let the Mayor take the hit for Jorge saying he didn’t ask for it.
His clean-up efforts from last week’s garbage should not involve throwing that garbage over the fence to us.
Reading added it was time for the mayor’s office to force Carrasco to admit he did ask for a raise. Several hours later, on Monday night, City Light issued a news release acknowledging that fact.
Meanwhile, citizens were flooding City Hall with angry letters and emails — and blaming Murray for the mess.
“Large volume this morning, and more angry than ever. It is clear that constituents tie both the raise, his problems in the press, and job are all being strongly tied to Mayor Murray,” wrote Mike Gore, a mayoral aide who handles responses to constituents, in an email to Reading on Wednesday, July 2.
Later that day, Murray announced during a news conference he would not give Carrasco a pay raise, citing “judgment” issues.
Carrasco later apologized for his actions in a news conference and said he respected Murray’s decision.