Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland says she will reimburse a Lakewood businessman who covered her airfare costs for a recent trip to Asia. Stickland told a News Tribune editorial writer Thursday that she would pay back the cost of the trip.
In a brief phone call with a reporter Friday, Strickland declined to elaborate, citing an ongoing ethics process.
“Since there has been an ethics complaint filed, I am not going to make any more statements to the press until this is resolved,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ron Chow, the businessman who used his frequent flier miles for Strickland’s travel, said Thursday that his gesture is allowed under the city’s code.
“It’s not a gift,” Chow said. “If I give it to her for personal (benefit), that is unethical. But we’re doing it because the city has no money, it is short on cash. And she is doing this (trip) on the official capacity of the city. There’s nothing unethical about it. I sponsor so many trips for any level of politicians.”
Earlier this week, The News Tribune reported that the mayor’s use of Chow’s frequent flier miles to cover her airfare for an official city trip to Asia may have violated ethics rules.
Tacoma’s ethics code and Washington state law both broadly prohibit city officials from giving or receiving gifts of value in connection with official city business.
The city’s board of ethics is set to meet March 24 to review the complaint and determine if further investigation is warranted.
Strickland has said she took the 10-day trip to Seoul, South Korea, and Shanghai and Fuzhou, China, to cultivate relationships in hopes of drawing business to the Tacoma area. Strickland, who was born in Seoul but moved to America as a small child, also said she planned to reconnect with a cousin while there.
Reached by phone Thursday, Chow – who met Strickland during her trip and set up several business meetings for the mayor in Shanghai – said Strickland did nothing unethical.
Asked if he had been informed by the mayor that she would reimburse him, Chow said he had just returned from China a few hours earlier and had not been in touch with Strickland – other than to send her “a very simple message: I’m sorry this happened.”
Lewis Kamb: 253-597-8542 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/politics