Des Moines contract with former Mayor Kaplan defended as legal by city


By Jack Mayne

City Manager Michael Matthias told the City Council at last Thursday’s meeting (Jan. 11) that the city entering into an agreement with former Mayor and Councilmember Dave Kaplan will include a one year contract as a consultant on regional transportation issues.

Kaplan will be paid at the rate of $100 an hour – for a maximum of $20,000 – in a contract that will expire on Dec. 31, 2018.

“We have been able to establish a contract with former Councilmember Kaplan to advise us and support us on a transportation front and to take advantage of the huge amount of knowledge and history and perspective that Dave has,” Matthias said at the Council meeting. “It is amazing how much help he will be.”

There were no comments at the meeting, with Councilmembers apparently briefed in advance.

But some residents of Des Moines this past week questioned the use of the former mayor and councilmember.

Most Washington cities have rules about using former Councilmembers as paid advisors after they leave office. Des Moines’ rules says that for “one year after leaving the city, a councilmember … may not hold or acquire a financial interest, direct or indirect, personally … in any contract” or assist any city official with such matters made by, through, or under their supervision.”

A citizen said the Kaplan position “appears to trigger some potentially serious ethical violations by the new Council …”

City attorney disagrees
Attorney Tim George said Kaplan is no longer on the city payroll and using people with his deep background in city issues “has historically been a fairly common practice for us to temporarily retain an employee through a general professional services contract after they voluntarily separate from employment in order to ensure that important issues are adequately addressed during the transition process.”

As for the part about a city councilmember not competing for a city contract “when they were involved in determining the scope of work or the selection process,” Kaplan is still able to do the work because “the scope of work and selection process was determined by the city manager and the Des Moines public works director…”

Additionally, the issues were “discussed with Mr. Kaplan only after he left office” and the contract was not made “by, through, or under the supervision” of Kaplan and it does not involve anything that does violate the city code.

George added that the city manager “has contracting authority for contracts under $50,000 and the required process was followed.”

So the city says the contract is legal, and within the laws of the city.


Comments

15 Responses to “Des Moines contract with former Mayor Kaplan defended as legal by city”
  1. DM Resident says:

    Hmmmm, doesn’t really pass the smell test to me.

    • Mysty Beal says:

      Seriously. If Dave has all this experience and knowledge, why doesn’t he just volunteer his expertise for the good of the city. $20,000 could be put to far better use.

    • That Guy says:

      I don’ t understand what doesn’t “pass the smell test”, regardless of how he’s been vilified by the local NIMBY population, he is a person with direct knowledge, and experience in the 509 expansion, and how it relates to Des Moines. Would you rather the city went without a consultant? Or someone with less knowledge of the situation to protect our interests?

      Mysty, I took my car to the dealership recently to get it fixed, and used the same argument. Obviously, they laughed at me.

      • Mysty Beal says:

        That Guy – there are plenty of Washington State Dept of Transportation employees that would happily provide the information for free. And I fix my own car…

        • BirchCreek says:

          Mysty, the Washington State DOT employees are not “free”. We pay their salaries through our taxes.

          • Mysty Beal says:

            …then it makes sense that we should avail ourselves of their expertise rather than doubling our expense, don’t ya think?

          • BirchCreek says:

            Mysty,
            You are evading my point as to the error of your statement “Transportation employees that would happily provide the information for free.”. They are not free as I stated. Just admit that your statement was erroneous. You need to make your arguments logically, not hyperbolically. Otherwise you will just be written off.

  2. JC Harris says:

    “Attorney Tim George said Kaplan is no longer on the city payroll and using people with his deep background in city issues has historically been a fairly common practice for us to temporarily retain an employee through a general professional services contract after they voluntarily separate from employment in order to ensure that important issues are adequately addressed during the transition process.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Mr. Kaplan was not an ’employee’, but an elected official.At the risk of sounding snarky, I can lend the City Attorney my kid’s high school civic’s text book if the distinction is not clear. This is -not- a trivial deal.

    This affair might be used as a class room example, “How not to do this…”

    1. The council was briefed in private.
    2. No vote was taken in public
    3. The public was offered no opportunity to weigh in.
    4. Since the city manager hired him, the municipal code offers no clear remedy (because it is given to the city manager to take action in case of ethics violations!)

    And that doesn’t address a couple of basic points, such as the fact that the language of the ordinance is so ambiguous as to be completely unhelpful.

    Also, it should have been obvious to the mayor and the council that this would have been a controversial move. If it wasn’t? That’s bad. If it was and they went ahead anyway? That’s also bad. but for a different reason.

    If Mr. Kaplan’s knowledge really -is- that critical to the city, a case should be made, in public, before hiring him, otherwise, his tasks should simply be assigned to his successor (or other CMs) as part of the normal transition of power.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Maybe a formal complaint should be filed with the State regarding this issue. You have a City Attorney that does whatever he wants without any regard to what is stated in the municipal codes. Seems to be a pattern with this guy. Refers to a former elected official as a former employee. Lets keep it 100, rumors have been circulating for months that Dave Kaplan was going to be hired on as a consultant. We knew it was too good to be true that he would finally go away.
    One thing that Tim George said in the press release was true, there is a precedence in Des Moines of not abiding by Codes and setting up their old retired buddies with extra funds after leaving office with consulting positions.

    • Mysty Beal says:

      …or hiring hack Ralph Nichols to write glowing testimonials of Des Moines as a favor since he served several politician’s needs.

  4. Melissa Musser says:

    So predictable. When this story was posted I could have put money on which of you would crawl out from under your porch to post first. Only three more of you to go.

    • Mysty Beal says:

      I didn’t crawl out from under my porch, Melissa, I stood on my deck. And called out something rotten – sorry if you disapprove.

    • JC Harris says:

      Nice.

      Unfortunately, when one writes to the City Manager and City Attorney for explanation and receives no reply, there’s not much else to do. I understand you admire the guy, but as much as you find it hard to believe, there are a lot of people who have been -deeply- hurt by his decisions and policies over the years.

  5. RedondoRick says:

    You should of shown that backbone when you were in council…

  6. John Riley says:

    I would like to know what he can do now, whan he was unable to do in the past?

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