Under a proposal supported by Mayor Greg Nickels, Seattle's ethics code would be relaxed for members of 29 advisory boards, from the Planning Commission to the Marijuana Policy Review Panel.
The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission also supports the proposal.
"It's a balancing act," said Bob Mahon, a commission member.
Nickels and commission members point out the volunteer panels were created to advise city officials and don't have the final vote on any issues.
As a result, they now believe the advisory boards should be treated differently from city employees and elected officials, who must comply with the ethics code or face fines of up to $5,000.
Under the proposal, advisory-board members would face smaller maximum fines than city employees face for violating ethics rules.
The members also wouldn't have to disqualify themselves from weighing in on matters in which they might have only a perceived conflict of interest.
Nickels said he supports the proposal because the city's ethics code might deter volunteers with valuable expertise from serving on advisory boards.
Critics of the proposal include the League of Women Voters and neighborhood activists. They say it would weaken ethics standards and erode public confidence in open and honest government.
For example, Laurelhurst neighborhood activist Jeannie Hale said strict rules are needed particularly for the planning commission. She said the planning commission tends to be dominated by people who work in land use and make recommendations the "development community applauds."
In 2005, Wayne Barnett, executive director of the ethics commission, received a complaint about Peter Lukevich, a member of a volunteer panel that oversees a $198 million parks levy.
While Lukevich was on the panel, his consulting business received $2,196 from parks department contracts, Barnett said.
— The Associated Press