County car allowance for officials to be lower by 7 percent

EVERETT — The Snohomish County Council on Wednesday set elected officials’ monthly car allowance at $529.28 for next year.

The 2016 level is about 7 percent lower than the current rate of $569.32. The figure is based on the average cost of owning and operating a county fleet vehicle.

The County Council approved the amount in a 4-0 vote without debate.

Eight of the county’s 11 eligible elected officials were claiming the reimbursement earlier this year.

County analyst James Lee filed a whistle-blower complaint in March claiming that he was under pressure to inflate the numbers when he calculated the rates.

Lee insisted he had committed fraud through moves such as basing compensation on the cost of sport utility vehicles, rather than less expensive cars such as sedans.

Supervisors countered that SUVs are an appropriate baseline, because they’re the most common part of the county fleet.

A workplace investigator hired by the county to examine Lee’s allegations concluded there was no fraud because the relevant sections of code are open to more than one valid interpretation.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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