Sims leaves messy legal battle
The man President Barack Obama selected to be his top deputy at the Department of Housing and Urban Development is leaving his last public job with a huge legal bill for violating Washington’s open government laws, in a case tied to Seattle’s taxpayer-financed NFL stadium and its biggest booster, billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
Obama has pledged a new era of government transparency. But his nominee for the No. 2 job at HUD, Ron Sims, ultimately was responsible as the elected chief executive of Washington state’s largest county for a saga of delays and denials that judges have deemed an inexcusable breach of open government laws.
The tug-of-war in Seattle centered on government documents relating to a proposed stadium for the Seattle Seahawks – the building now known as Qwest Field. A judge later ruled the paperwork should have taken only days to deliver. Instead, many documents were trapped for years in bureaucratic bungling.
The ensuing legal battle – still in the courts today, 12 years later – could leave county taxpayers on the hook for about $1 million in legal bills. The dispute has spanned Sims’ entire tenure as King County executive, and may even outlast him in Seattle. Nominated in February, he now awaits confirmation by the Senate.