Editorial: Senate Should Hold Off on Sims
“[T]here 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.”—King County Executive Ron Sims, Barack Obama's nominee for Deputy HUD Secretary regarding Qwest Field lawsuit.
ALG Editor's Note: Yesterday, the Washington Examiner broke news of a startling contradiction by Barack Obama's nominee for deputy secretary of HUD, Ron Sims, current King County Executive. Clearly it is time for Obama to withdraw the Sims nomination.
Yesterday, the Senate Banking Committee voted to send the nomination of King County Executive Ron Sims, Barack Obama's nominee for Deputy HUD Secretary, to the floor of the Senate for a vote. This comes after less than a week after his perfunctory hearing before the acquiescent committee. Now, it will take a courageous senator or two to hold the Sims' nomination on the floor itself.
Mr. Sims' performance at the Banking Committee hearing—and his record as King County Executive—demonstrates time and again that he is less than forthcoming when directly questioned about his own performance. On April 23rd when Senator David Vitter questioned Mr. Sims about his role in the “protracted 12-year legal battle involving government documents relating to Qwest Field” he answered, “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.” At least, not under oath.
On April 24th, when interviewed by the Washington News Observer, he was more than anxious to defend himself from questions about the case proclaiming, “I didn't conceal anything… 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.”
The fact, however, is that Mr. Sims was specifically named, contradicting what he said on camera, in court records listing “The Office of Ron Sims, King County Executive” as the Respondent in the case, Yousoufian v. Sims. To make matters worse, King County was in fact fined $120,000 for failing to provide Armen Yousoufian with documents related to the feasibility of building Qwest Field in Seattle.
Significantly in 1997, long before the Yousoufian lawsuit was filed, King County residents then were just weeks away from voting on a referendum to raise taxes by $300 million. Mr. Yousoufian correctly believed the records were important at the time of the tax hike referendum—they were studies depicting a far different picture of the stadium's construction from what was portrayed to the county legislature and the public at large during the campaign. The trial court later found that King County could have complied with Yousoufian's request within five business days of his original request, in time for the referendum. Instead it took more than four years and millions of dollars of litigation to force Sims to comply with the law.
Worse yet, it's a matter of fact that King County—under Mr. Sims' leadership—deceived Mr. Yousoufian, and all county residents. According the majority opinion of the Washington State Supreme Court penned by Richard Sanders, “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.”
At best, Mr. Sims is an artless dodger who does not feel comfortable testifying under oath about one of the worst episodes of public deception in King County history. And at worst, he is to this day a deliberate liar directly responsible for withholding the documents that show his administration in less than a favorable light, committed to the deception that goes on to this day. The court records demonstrate that King County deliberately understated the costs of Qwest Field on Mr. Sims' watch, and therefore deceived county residents into forking over millions of dollars.
The least the Senate can do is to hold up Mr. Sims' nomination so that members can get to the bottom of this controversy by asking more questions of the nominee—under penalty of perjury. The best it can do is to send Mr. Sims back to Seattle where he can pass the hours in his monumental field of schemes.