ALG - Sims Nomination Controversy Growing

Court Records Contradict HUD Nominee's Remarks to Television Crew

By: Kevin Mooney
Examiner Investigative Reporter
04/28/09 3:38 PM

President Barack Obama's nominee for deputy secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) told Senator David Vitter (R-La.) last week during a confirmation hearing that he could not comment about his role in an on-going legal battle over a sport stadium.

"With regard to the litigation involving Qwest Field, since the matter is involved in active litigation, I am regrettably unable to comment upon that case," said Ronald Sims, the King County Executive in Washington State.

However, when he was interviewed by a television crew the next day about a $120,000 fine Sims denied concealing any records or having any personal involvement in the case. Sims also said there were no records linking him with the case.

"I didn't conceal anything, so you're absolutely wrong on that," he said. "I was not fined $120,000. As a matter of fact, it's interesting because there is nothing in the court record at all involving me personally. I never was involved in that at all. There's nothing-nothing regarding my conduct. I didn't conceal a thing. I did order the release of documents after they were discovered, but I never concealed anything."

Court records contradict these statements. "The office of Ron Sims, King County Executive" was listed as the respondent in a court ruling issued this past January. Writing for the majority in Yousoufian v. Sims, Justice Richard Sanders concluded that information was withheld from the plaintiff and that fines should be levied.

The opinion reads as follows: "The unchallenged findings of fact demonstrate King County repeatedly deceived and misinformed Yousoufian for years. King County told Yousoufian it produced all the requested documents, when in fact it had not. King County told Yousoufian the information was located elsewhere, when in fact it was not. After years of delay, mispresentation, and ineptitude on the part of King County, Yousoufian filed suit; nevertheless, it would still take another year for King County to completely and accurately respond to Yousoufian's original request, well past the purpose of his request, the referendum on public financing of a sports stadium [emphasis added]."

In this same ruling it was also noted that, "The trial court found King County could have complied with Yousoufian's PRA [Public Records Act] request within 'five business days' following Yousoufian's initial request."

Armen Yousoufian, the plaintiff, asked for records of government studies that examined costs connected with the proposed Seattle Seahawks stadium. This request was made when King County residents were still a few weeks away from voting on a referendum to raise taxes by $300 million, according to Americans for Limited Government (ALG), a group opposed to the Sims HUD nomination.

King County has now been ordered to pay Yousoufian $120,000, the largest fine in state history, ALG claims in a news release.

There is no question that Sims is the main defendant in this case, despite what he told the television crew, Carter Clews the communication for ALG, said. The records could have been released in a timely fashion that would help serve the public interest but instead this took years , costing millions of dollars in litigation, he added.

"He's being Clintonesque in his words," Richard McCarty, a researcher with ALG said. "He's trying to say it's his office that has been fined but not him personally, but he's the one responsible here."

For more information, please click here for ALG's research on the Sims stadium controversy.