They are three little words which have heavy implications in Seattle: "Cesspool of corruption."
That's how Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant described the Port of Seattle nearly a year ago when she made a deciding vote in the proposed street vacation for a new SODO arena. During that speech Sawant cited what she said was a statement by former U.S. Attorney Mike McKay, in which she claimed he described a culture at the Port that was a "cesspool of corruption."
It stuck. Almost a year later, it's become a popular hashtag on social media any time there is a bit of Port-related news. The hashtag has popped up quite a bit after recent developments surrounding the Port's CEO and Commission President.
"I've gotten a ton of credit for calling the Port of Seattle a cesspool of corruption," Sawant said last month. "Unfortunately I can't claim authorship of that phrase. I borrowed it from the U.S. attorney who investigated the Port of Seattle, and he said it was a cesspool of corruption based on his technical evaluation of everything that happened. I agree with his assessment."
One problem: McKay says he never said it, and no one has ever tried to verify the claim.
"I did not; that's not language that I use. I didn't believe that then or do I now," McKay said Tuesday, who did perform an independent investigation on Port activities.
"I'm surprised that college graduates didn't do the research necessary before they started quoting me," McKay added.
In fact, a simple Google search shows no reference to McKay making the statement, either in speech or written form. The only reference point is Sawant repeating the quote and attributing it to McKay.
On Tuesday, faced with questions about the veracity of Sawant's statement, her staffer Ted Virdone acknowledged "we couldn't find it," claiming "I'm confident that it came from somewhere, but years later, I can't find it."
McKay is more blunt.
"I believe I'm being misquoted," he said. "It's been nearly a decade. If she can show me where I said it, then I'll stand corrected. But I'm quite confident I never did. I certainly didn't believe it then, don't believe it now, don't believe I ever said it."