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Saturday, August 12, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Corrected version

Nickels cleared in complaint about funds for viaduct video

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle's top ethics watchdog dismissed a complaint alleging Mayor Greg Nickels violated city rules when he spent taxpayer funds on a video advocating a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

City officials are barred from using public money to campaign for a candidate or ballot issue. Wayne Barnett, executive director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, ruled Friday that Nickels' video is lawful because a public vote on replacing the earthquake-damaged viaduct has not yet been scheduled.

The Nickels video was produced by the Seattle Channel, city government's TV network, for about $2,000. The two-minute satire suggested the city should preserve "big ugly" things such as the viaduct.

The complaint was filed by John Fox, coordinator of the Seattle Displacement Coalition. Fox believes a tunnel would siphon city money from more pressing needs.

"This opens the door for abuse," Fox said, contending that the mayor and council could wait until the last minute to put something on the ballot and campaign for it in the meantime with taxpayer funds.

In his ruling, Barnett recommended creating a citizen-review panel to ensure Seattle Channel programs are "independent and fair." The Seattle Channel's manager said the channel would produce an anti-tunnel video if a City Council member asked, Barnett reported.

The council is expected to decide in September how to fix or replace the viaduct. Some council members oppose a tunnel and some think the issue should be put to voters.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174

Information in this article, originally published August 12, 2006, was corrected August 12, 2006. A previous version of this story misspelled the name off Mayor Greg Nickels in the headline.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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