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SDOT Director Kubly admits to Pronto ethics violations, could be fined up to $10K

Scott Kubly addresses media during the launch of the Move Seattle levy
Scott Kubly addresses media during the launch of the Move Seattle levy

SDOT Director Scott Kubly has admitted that he failed to obtain a waiver before working with his former employer about Seattle’s bike share system Pronto.

The months-long ethics investigation concluded that Kubly violated ethics rules by working with former co-workers during the bike share system’s first year in operation. Under an agreement between Kubly and Marilyn Brenneman, the investigator the Ethics Commission hired for this case, Kubly would be fined up to $10,000, though $5,000 of it would be suspended so long as no other violations occur according to a settlement agreement signed June 21 (PDF).

The Commission will decide at their next meeting whether to accept this settlement or hear the case further. The Commission is scheduled to discuss the case July 6. Kubly declined to comment at this time, saying, “we do not want to interfere with their deliberations.”

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The problem isn’t that he hid previous work connections from the public. His experience helping to launch bike share systems in Washington D.C. and Chicago as well as his six-month stint as President of Alta Bicycle Share from January through June of 2014 were publicly lauded when he was hired to become SDOT Director in July 2014. Since Puget Sound Bike Share was set to launch a system in Seattle months after Kubly was hired, his bike share experience seemed like a good thing for the city.

However, city ethics rules state that city employees are not to do business with a previous employer for a year after their employment ends without first obtaining a waiver. That did not happen. Kubly admitted this violation and agreed to be fined.

A second, similar violation notes that while Alta Bicycle Share was bought by Motivate as of January, 2015, and ceased to be a former employer, enough key staff at Alta continued to Motivate that Kubly should still have had a waiver to do business with this new company he never technically worked for.

Importantly, however, the ethics decision finds that “these violations produced no evidence that Kubly sought or received any personal financial gain in connection with the acknowledged violations.”

He belatedly filed the paperwork for a waiver in September 2015, and no actions taken after this date (which would include the City Council buyout deliberations) are considered violations, the document states.

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11 responses to “SDOT Director Kubly admits to Pronto ethics violations, could be fined up to $10K”

  1. Matthew Snyder

    Ugh, this whole situation is just so frustrating. The city paid Marilyn Brenneman $20,000 to investigate the ethics breach. Kubly was found guilty and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, meaning that we just lost $15,000 of taxpayer money investigating Kubly for something that we knew he had done before we started the investigation. Was there some point to this investigation other than throwing away money?

    If anything, I thought the hush-hush payments of $300,000 from SDOT to Pronto (which were then directly transferred to Motivate) would have been part of this investigation, but it doesn’t look like they show up in the report. I realize SDOT had the budgetary authority to make the payments, but they do seem to bear directly on the ethics question at hand.

    1. William

      Applying the same arguments, one could conclude that many police investigations of civil crimes or serious accidents are a waste of time since they often confirm well-accepted facts and do not recoup their costs. The bottom line is that for $15K we have it on record that Kubly is seriously ethically compromised and if he is not asked to resign or fired, that also makes a statement about the ethical standards of our Mayor. Compared with millions the city has and will spend keeping Pronto limping along, this seems like money pretty well spent even if the investigation was more limited in scope than it could have been

      1. Capitol Hillian

        “Kubly is seriously ethically compromised and if he is not asked to resign or fired, that also makes a statement about the ethical standards of our Mayor”

        Um no. It found that he failed to file a form stating what everyone already knew. Big yawn if you ask me.

      2. Jon Wright

        I have no idea what Director Kubly was (or wasn’t) thinking when he needed to be filing the necessary disclosures. But imagining myself in that situation, I can see how maybe I wouldn’t think I needed to disclose something that was common knowledge. And I know I am terrible about certain administrative tasks (yet am a competent manager) so I can also imagine myself not getting the paperwork submitted. If the investigation showed that he neither sought nor received any personal compensation, how does that leave him ethically compromised? I do know there are plenty of people that dislike Kubly because he is “anti-car” and not a traffic engineer and more of a politician. I just have not seen anything substantive come out of this whole ordeal and it feels more like it is being driven by people with an axe to geind.

  2. Mojo sinking

    So no mention on presenting inflated pronto member numbers to the city council?

    I think pronto is a nice asset, but what a distraction from our real issue of building bike facilities. Sad all around.

  3. A

    Bunch of f’ing goofs all around.

  4. […] The Seattle Bike Blog reports that Kubly’s relationship with Alta Bicycle Share was no secret: […]

  5. Mark Smith

    What other corruption is waiting to be found?

  6. Jort

    All of the drama about this actually made me sign up for Pronto — and whatever is going on with the ethics just doesn’t really matter to me. The service is great! I have used it significantly more than I thought I would!

    I am really looking forward to expansion, though.

    1. Erik

      The sad part is the corruption you don’t care about has led the taxpayers of the city to subsidize your membership i.e. the hiring of a former bike share executive in government. Hey if corruption works for ME it’s all good!

  7. […] the system buyout talks without getting the proper ethics waiver first. He admitted the lapse and was fined $5,000. It was not a scandal of epic proportions, but it damaged his reputation along with […]

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