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Thursday, August 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Spokane City Council aide’s outside political work draws ethics complaint

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart’s top aide, Adam McDaniel, has been accused of violating the city’s ethics code due to his political consulting business and work for local Democratic campaigns.

The complaint alleges that McDaniel’s business, McDaniel Projects, has benefited “from the policy work he is doing and being paid for by Spokane taxpayers.” The complaint refers to two sections of the ethics code, which prohibit some types of employment and “directly or indirectly” benefiting from legislation.

Michael Cannon, who filed the complaint, is a real estate investor and local Republican who ran for City Council in 2013, but lost to Councilwoman Candace Mumm.

While the complaint doesn’t point to specific examples of McDaniel benefiting from city laws, it says he “provides political consulting, for money,” and “benefits from McDaniel Projects claiming credit for ‘successfully leading the progressive shift in Spokane’ and, as a consultant who gets paid for this type of work, developing the policy that is then passed by the Spokane City Council.”

In an interview, Cannon said it’s the indirect benefit McDaniel may receive that troubles him.

“He’s a policy worker in the city, but that’s also what he gets paid for at his business,” Cannon said. “Any legislation pads his resume and he can go get further clients and say, ‘Look at my success.’ There’s a reason he operates as a business and not just a volunteer.”

McDaniel denies any ethical violations but acknowledged working on the recent campaigns for council members Amber Waldref and Lori Kinnear “targeting voters.” As a self-proclaimed “data geek,” he said he identifies which voters are more likely to vote for the candidates. He also ran Jon Snyder’s 2013 campaign before being hired by Stuckart.

McDaniel said he believes Cannon’s complaint stems from “personal or political animosity” and is a smear campaign aimed at Stuckart.

“I don’t sell recycled paper. I’m not an apprentice,” McDaniel said, referring to city legislation promoted by Stuckart. “I have 100 percent faith that the Ethics Commission will find this complaint frivolous.”

McDaniel said he and Cannon have regularly clashed on social media, notably in the comment threads of Facebook posts made by former Councilman Mike Allen, who often asks questions and spurs debate.

Most recently, in a post Allen wrote about the recent pay increase for council members, McDaniel recommended linking elected officials’ pay raises to inflation to “end this really stupid discussion.” Cannon was the first to reply, suggesting council members were hypocritical on the subject of pay raises at City Hall. .

Cannon acknowledged that Councilman Mike Fagan does similar outside political work as McDaniel, but he said Fagan is “not receiving any benefit from his work as as council member.”

Along with Tim Eyman, Fagan is the co-founder and co-director of Voters Want More Choices, an anti-tax group that regularly mounts statewide initiatives.

“Fagan’s work doesn’t overlap with the council,” Cannon said. “Adam’s work absolutely overlaps with the council. That’s the issue.”

Cannon would not say what he thought McDaniel’s punishment should be if found to have violated the code but said, “He needs to choose between his business and the city. People have lost their jobs for a lot less. It’s such a conflict that he has to choose.”

Cannon added that ethical lapses can be traced back to Stuckart, who is “a little bit drunk on power.”

“If there is a weakness on the council, it’s in the council president’s office and his flippant attitude toward ethics and his strong sense of power,” Cannon said.

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