King County, Washington

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Transparency grading process

King County is one of 39 counties in Washington.

The population in the 2000 census was 1,737,034. In 2006, the population had increased by about 100,000 to 1,835,300. In terms of its population, King is the largest county in Washington, and the 14th largest in the United States.

The county seat is Seattle, which is the state's largest city. About two-thirds of King County's population lives in the Seattle suburbs.

King County ranks among the 100 highest-income counties in the United States.

Website evaluation

Last rated February 6, 2012.

The good

  • Budget is published.[1]
  • County council members listed with contact information.[2] Meeting schedule, minutes and agendas available.[3]
  • Includes contact information for public records officer and information on requesting public records.[4][5]
  • Building permits[6] and zoning information provided.[7]
  • Audit reports are available.[8]
  • Local tax info available.[9]
  • Information on bids and contracts is posted.[10]
  • Employee contact information can be searched for if name of employee is known.[11]

The bad


The 2012 budget totals $5,411,467,247 in spending.[12]

Expenditure Percent
Economic growth and build environment 37%
Capital Improvement Program 15%
Health and Human Services 12%
Debt 9%
Delivery of Services 12%
Justice and Safety 10
Environmental Sustainability 5
Total 100%

The following table outlines revenue sources in the 2012 budget.[13]

Revenue Type Percent
Property Tax 43%
Charges for Services 18%
Sales Tax 14%
Intergovernmental 13%
Other 4%
Federal, state, and local revenues 3%
Other Taxes 4%
Licenses and Permits 1%
Total 100%

The King County data site has a pie chart for expenditures in the 2012 budget (timed out) here.

Public Employees

See also: Washington public employee salaries

See also: Washington public pensions

Elected Officials

The King County Council is the legislative branch of the County government that is responsible for policy making. It consists of nine members representing districts of about 200,000 people per district and are elected for four-year terms in nonpartisan elections.[14] Other elected officials include the Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Satterberg and Sheriff Steven Strachan.

First Last Position Term Expiration Salary (2011 Gross Pay)
Bob Ferguson Member 2013 $131,567.00
Joe McDermott Member 2015 $131,518.00
Julia Patterson Member 2013 $134,063.00
Reagan Dunn Member 2013 $132,018.00
Kathy Lambert Member 2013 $137,217.00
Pete von Reichbauer Member 2013 $137,630.00
Jane Hague Vice-Chair 2015 $138,031.00
Larry Gossett Chair 2015 $138,181.00
Larry Phillips Member 2015 $132,012.00

Recent Council Action as of July 2012

  • Smoking in parks
    • By a 6-1 vote, the King County Council has voted to ban the use of tobacco products, including chewing tobacco and cigarettes. County Executive Dow Constantine is expected to approve the measure.[15]
  • Multi-purpose arena
    • The Seattle City Council and the King County Council have been working on a way to build a new multi-purpose arena for roughly $500 million. The arena would be used to attract an NBA or NHL team to the Seattle area. Currently, up to $200 million of the cost would be financed by public bonds.[16] The complete proposal can be found on the county website here.
  • Sewer-rate hike
    • A unanimous vote by the King County Council approved a 10 percent hike in the sewer rate over two years. The rates in King County have doubled since 1999 and are projected to increase by 11.9 percent by 2015.[17]

Administrative Officials

First elected in 2009, Dow Constantine is the County Executive for King County. He had previously served four terms on the County Council.[18]

First Last Position 2011 Gross Pay
Dow Constantine County Executive $202,949.00
Fred Jarrett Deputy County Executive $171,150.00
Sung Yang Chief of Staff $139,276.00
Rhonda Berrgy Assistant Deputy County Executive $166,808.00
Joe Woods Deputy Chief of Staff
Caroline Whalen County Administrative Officer
Dwight Dively Budget Director
Carrie Cihak Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives $140,387.00
Frank Abe Director of Communications $125,946.00
Natasha Jones Director of Customer Service $103,744.00
Patti Cole-Tindall Director of Labor Relations
Dylan Ordonez Leadership Team Coordinator $71,378.00
  • Email reveals affair
    • County Executive Dow Constantine was revealed to have an affair with consultant Kim Fuqua after Fuqua accidentally sent an email meant for Constantine to multiple people. Constantine is not married, but is in a long term relationship with Shirley Carlson.[19]
  • Palestinian bus advertisements
    • In 2010, the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign attempted to run ads on Metro buses that read, "Israeli war crimes: Your tax dollars at work." The ads were not allowed to run.[20] In February of 2012, the county approved ads that read, "I'm a Palestinian....equal rights for all."[21]

Top 10 salaries

The following are the top 10 salaries in terms of gross pay in 2011:[22]

Name Job Title Department Net Pay Overtime Pay 2011 Gross Pay
Don C Griffee POLICE OFFICER PUBLIC SAFETY $152,252 $137 $219,529
Richard C Harruff MEDICAL OFFICER SEA-KC PUBLIC HEALTH DEPT $142,465 $0 $218,413
Michael Fischer Wastewater Plan Ops Mgr DNRP-Natural Resources & Parks $90,128 $212,280
James Dow Constantine COUNTY EXECUTIVE COUNTY EXECUTIVE STAFF $112,296 $0 $202,949
John C Rose PSYCHIATRIST SEA-KC PUBLIC HEALTH DEPT $114,685 $1,942 $201,680
Charissa Fotinos MEDICAL OFFICER SEA-KC PUBLIC HEALTH DEPT $124,677 $0 $201,198
Robert W Lovell PSYCHIATRIST SEA-KC PUBLIC HEALTH DEPT $124,519 $1,494 $201,102
Michael David Miner COUNTY MARSHAL PUBLIC SAFETY $120,306 $75,721 $199,651
Roger Byron Higgs JAIL HEALTH PHYSICIAN SEA-KC PUBLIC HEALTH DEPT $115,136 $17,930 $199,475

Emergency personnel

The following are the top 10 public safety salaries terms of gross pay in 2011:[23]

Name Job Title Department Net Pay Overtime Pay 2011 Gross Pay
Don C Griffee POLICE OFFICER PUBLIC SAFETY $152,252 $137 $219,529
Michael David Miner COUNTY MARSHAL PUBLIC SAFETY $120,306 $75,721 $199,651
Edward E Christian Jr POLICE OFFICER PUBLIC SAFETY $128,858 $96,563 $197,836
Gary Lavern Zornes POLICE OFFICER PUBLIC SAFETY $119,322 $83,598 $187,547
Randal A Potter POLICE OFFICER PUBLIC SAFETY $101,665 $66,036 $168,855
Joseph Edwin Tracy SERGEANT PUBLIC SAFETY $0 $53,084 $166,945
Theodore A Boe SERGEANT PUBLIC SAFETY $90,946 $48,046 $165,841
Susan Lee Rahr SHERIFF-DIR-PUBLIC SAFETY PUBLIC SAFETY $113,307 $0 $165,340
Paul Nelson Mahlum SERGEANT PUBLIC SAFETY $109,327 $42,736 $165,044
Raphael Nathan Crenshaw SERGEANT PUBLIC SAFETY $108,972 $52,388 $161,164

According to the King County website, the salary range for deputies in 2012 is $60,275-$84,398. Deputies are given benefits including: paid training, paid holidays, vacation, sick leave, take home car, medical, vision, dental, uniforms and most equipment provided, and entrance into the Washington State Law Enforcement and Fire Fighters (LEOFF) Retirement System.[24]

The following are the top 10 emergency medical salaries in terms of gross pay in 2011: [25]

Name Job Title Department Net Pay Overtime Pay 2011 Gross Pay
Donald J Cloyd PARAMEDIC EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES $100,269 $52,860 $164,181
Jeff Merritt MSO-OPERATIONS EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES $103,672 $29,633 $162,686
Keith Keller MSO-OPERATIONS EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES $110,774 $33,106 $161,695
Christopher Merritt MSO-OPERATIONS EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES $88,421 $22,758 $154,695
James H Sandlin PARAMEDIC EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES $95,362 $29,478 $151,193
Stephen J Perry PARAMEDIC EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES $80,719 $37,887 $147,005
Andrew F Tait PARAMEDIC EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES $97,783 $28,912 $144,607
Matthew Louis Riesenberg PARAMEDIC EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES $84,023 $37,491 $144,087
Calvin Earl Schlegel PARAMEDIC EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES $102,071 $40,654 $144,024

Transparency & public records

King County has a website dedicated to open and accessible data sets.[26] An ordinance passed in 2011 requires a public records officer to give the contact information of the correct agency public records officer if they believe the request belongs to that agency.[27]


Property tax information can be found on the King County website here.


See also: Washington government sector lobbying

In 2012, King County reported $35,100 spent on lobbying so far.[28]

Year Amount Spent on Lobbying
2012 $35,100
2011 $174,200
2010 $290,000
2009 $450,000
2008 $460,000
2007 $440,000
2006 $400,000
2005 $395,000
2004 $380,000
2003 $388,000
2002 $364,000
2001 $280,000
2000 $240,000
1999 $222,000
1998 $56,500
Total (15 Years) $4,574,800.00

Yousoufian v Sims

Main article: Yousoufian v. Office of Ron Sims

In 1997 Armen Yousoufian requested documents concerning economic studies that had been done regarding the public financing of what is now Qwest Field in King County. The county took four years to respond with the requested documents (the Washington Public Records Act requires a response within five days). A penalty of nearly $124,000 was assessed to the county, but the Washington Supreme Court ruled in January 2009 that the fee was insufficient, and ordered a lower court to calculate a larger penalty.[29] As Justice Richard Sanders said in his majority opinion, King County "repeatedly deceived and misinformed Yousoufian for years."[30]

On April 1, 2009, King County asked the state Supreme Court to re-hear the case. The basis for their request is that claim that justice Richard Sanders, who wrote the landmark decision, was prejudiced in his opinion about the case because at the same time he wrote the ruling, Sanders had a public-records lawsuit pending in Thurston County. King County Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Wright said, "A justice may not define the scope of rights under state law while simultaneously seeking to personally benefit from that law in other litigation."[31]

The county is asking the high court to re-hear the case, substituting a temporary justice in the place of Sanders. Since six justices on the nine-justice court agreed with Sanders, it isn't clear that substituting a replacement justice for Sanders on the court would change the outcome.[31]

Sanders denies wrongdoing. He consulted with the court's ethics attorney before hearing Yousoufian. Sanders also says that he will not financially benefit from any additional fines imposed in the Thurston case, so that he does not have a financial conflict-of-interest.

Seattle lawyer Thomas Fitzpatrick, a member of a committee that reviews the canons of the state's Code of Judicial Conduct, said Sanders does not have the type of financial interest in the Yousofian case that would have constrained him for hearing it. "He's not a party or related to a party in the case. To me, this is the kind of situation where [a judge] may want to think long and hard about it. But I don't think it's a violation of the canons."[31]

Sharkansky v. King County

On April 24, 2009, King County settled a lawsuit with blogger Stefan Sharkansky. The county agreed to pay Sharkansky $225,000 for withholding public records that Sharkansy requested in 2004.[32]

In December 2004, Sharkansky filed a request under the Washington Public Records Act for everyone who voted in the county in the November 2004 election. The county did not provide the records for two years.[32] Once Sharkansky did receive the records, he says they revealed that elections officials in the county counted ballots that were ineligible, and that this changed the outcome of the state's 2004 gubernatorial election between Democrat Chris Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi.

The county's failure to provide the records on a timely basis prevented Sharkansky from providing needed evidence in a trial in Chelan County Superior Court over the disputed election. "The trial never explained this mystery of why there were more votes than voters,” he said on April 24.[32]

External links


See also