The Seattle City Attorney's office acknowledges a miscalculation led to a $13.4 million shortfall, which now needs to be factored into the 2018 budget.
It was not mentioned during Mayor Tim Burgess' budget address, nor referenced. However, budget director Ben Noble said it will need to be filled by the general fund dollars, a result of a shortfall in the Judgment Claims fund. That's a pool of money designed for settling lawsuits against the city. The shortfall is also a result of the use of outside counsel costs to handle those claims.
"It's a budget number that I have no control over," said City Attorney Pete Holmes, adding, "nor do I have control over how many lawsuits are filed against the city in a given year."
He says suits ranging from rideshare unionization to the gun tax, and police issues have all factored in.
"This we have an overrun," he told KING 5. "We have been sued a lot."
However, it comes at a time when Holmes is up for re-election. His opponent, Scott Lindsay, has said it an example in leadership.
"It's shocking, and it raises real troubling questions about Pete Holmes outside counsel costs," said Lindsay, "I really question how much the city is relying on outside counsel."
The Seattle City Council will spend the next two months debating Burgess' proposed budget.
"We have to defend all claims against the city, including for initiatives tort action and the like," said Holmes. "There is an old saying: Lawyers don't control the lightning."