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June 12, 2014 at 2:03 PM

Pete Holmes apologizes for charter amendment gaffe

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes today apologized for his office’s failure to recognize that a 15 Now charter amendment couldn’t appear on the city ballot until 2015.

“I have apologized to our city clients for not spotting the voter-proposed charter amendment issue sooner, and for not concluding our research sooner. I am committed to ensure that the CAO (City Attorney’s Office) continues to improve its legal services.”

Someone in his office identified the possible issue May 23, he said. City officials were notified of the oversight June 5.

Holmes’ statement notes that 15 Now filed two charter amendments and two initiatives in April, each of which required his office to draft and file ballot titles within five business days. Additionally, Holmes said, the measures were filed “amid a record number of other complex initiatives.”

“While we strive to be proactive, my office cannot always anticipate every potential legal issue.”

In Holmes’ statement, he said voter-proposed charter amendments are rare. But a major one to change the way city council members are elected from at-large to geographic districts was on the ballot just last year.

The threat of a 15 Now charter amendment created a sense of urgency among city leaders and on Mayor Ed Murray’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee where labor and business leaders were pressed to reach a compromise on raising the minimum wage or face the charter amendment on the November ballot.

But under the City Charter, voter-sponsored charter amendments can appear only in general municipal elections, which are held in odd numbered years.

The issue wasn’t made public until late last week when a group of small business owners under the name Forward Seattle submitted its own charter amendment to raise the minimum wage to $12.50. Within a day of filing, it learned that a charter amendment might not be able to appear in 2014.

Angela Cough and Kathrina Tugadi, chairs of the Forward Seattle campaign, today released an open letter to the City Council asking it to put its proposal before voters in November. The City Council can place a charter amendment on the ballot in any year.

“Citizens need to be able to trust our city’s system of checks and balances and basic information. Council members have the opportunity now to instill public confidence that has been lost and dedicate your commitment to transparency and integrity throughout the legislative process,” the Forward Seattle letter says.

Holmes declined to comment for a story about the issue published Monday by The Seattle Times.

Comments | Topics: 15 Now, minimum wage, Pete Holmes

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