Politics & Government

Ethics complaint against Tacoma councilman Mello dismissed

The Tacoma Board of Ethics has dismissed an April complaint lodged against City Councilman Ryan Mello alleging he violated the city’s code of ethics.

Mello called the ruling “fair.”

“It seems they did their job and adequately applied the ethics code to the facts at hand,” Mello said Tuesday of the board’s ruling. “I am pleased they dismissed a baseless allegation.”

In March, Mello proposed awarding $50,000 to the nonprofit Pierce County AIDS Foundation to help renovate its new offices at 3009 S. 40th St. He later joined the City Council in a unanimous vote approving the amount.

The complaint, filed anonymously, alleged Mello had violated the code of ethics by voting in favor of the expenditure because his husband, Jerry Hallman, volunteers on the AIDS Foundation’s board. The complaint said a “wiser leader” would have recused himself from the vote, and it called Mello “unprofessional.”

The Board of Ethics considered the complaint at two meetings in April. Since Hallman does not draw a salary from the Pierce County AIDS Foundation, Mello is not financially benefiting from his April vote, the board ruled.

Hallman had been on a leave of absence since 2013 to take care of his insurance business. He is no longer listed as a board member on the agency’s website.

The ethics board did caution city officials to “strive to avoid even the ‘appearance of impropriety’ ... As such, prudence may prompt disclosure even in situations where the Code of Ethics cannot be read to mandate disclosure.”