Seattle City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco is his own worst advocate. Since the Seattle City Council approved a 45-percent raise for Carrasco (at the time, the city’s highest-paid employee) last month, he has continued to make a series of missteps that makes one wonder why he was considered for any raise.
Mayor Ed Murray had pushed the Seattle City Council to give Carrasco a salary that was commensurate with other metropolitan utility leaders across the country. Shortly after the vote, it was disclosed that City Light had spent $17,500 (of a $47,000 signed contract) for an online reputation-management company to overload search-engine results with positive stories about Carrasco and the utility.
The local media has scrutinized Carrasco’s actions since. The Seattle P-I initially reported last December and then The Seattle Times reminded the public last month that Carrasco readily but unknowingly gave $120,000 worth of scrap copper to two con men posing as Cherokee Nation members helping disabled children.
Then, through two other media outlets on June 25, Carrasco unconvincingly denied asking for a pay raise; by the following Monday, we learned that Carrasco did ask for a raise — twice: once to former Mayor Mike McGinn and the second time to Murray. And Carrasco had mentioned to Murray that another utility was seeking his leadership, which prompted the recent salary discussion.
A hastily called press conference last Thursday afternoon for Carrasco to issue a public apology didn’t help improve his image, either. “I am committed to making sure these things do not happen again, and we’ve put controls in place to make sure that that’s the case,” he told reporters after accepting full responsibility for those missteps. In other words, controls on him.
Murray said, during his announcement that Carrasco would not be getting any raise at this time, that “there are questions around transparency and trust that need to be rebuilt as a result of this controversy.” But the issues of trust and transparency did not just arise from this one: The Seattle Police Department was federally reprimanded for its use of force and biased policing in 2012. It’s just now City Light’s turn to be held accountable.
Murray had steadfastly supported giving Carrasco a hefty raise, even though the mayor admits he didn’t know about these situations until very recently. How much trust and transparency can there be if even the mayor doesn’t know what’s happening with the people who theoretically report to him? It’s time for Murray to restructure the chain of command so it’ll be transparent to him whom he should trust.