Councilmember Licata left office on January 1, 2016.
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Urban Politics #82: City Council’s WTO Accountability Review Committee

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.



  • Formal Preamble
  • Goals Of Review
  • Products Of The Review
  • Role Of ARC Staff:
  • Role Of Citizen Panels
  • Panel One – WTO Invitation
  • Panel Two – Preparations & Planning
  • Panel Three – Operations

City Council’s WTO Accountability Review Committee

The following preamble and workplan have been reviewed and shaped by leaders of the faith community, organized labor, police guild and civil rights organizations. It is not perfect but as Kathleen Taylor, ACLU Washington Executive Director has written, “The Council review is appropriately focusing on policy changes needed to prevent civil liberty abuses in the future. The Council rightly will not attempt to resolve specific claims of civil liberties violations. If the panels meet the high expectations set forth by Councilmember Compton’s Accountability Review Committee, the City will be well served.”

Formal Preamble

Seattle City Council Resolution 30100 establishes a special committee to review events surrounding the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Seattle. The Accountability Review Committee (ARC) is chaired by Seattle City Councilmember Jim Compton and includes Councilmembers Nick Licata and Jan Drago although any Council Member may attend and vote. Review Committee Staff Director will be Alec Fisken. The Director may hire additional staff as necessary, with Committee approval. ARC will hire independent legal counsel as it deems necessary to accomplish its stated goals.

The city deserves answers about what happened. And citizens, visitors deserve assurances that they will be safe in the streets, safe in their homes, and safe to express deeply held convictions without obstacle or interruption.

Law enforcement personnel deserve assurances that city policy regarding large public events will involve sufficient planning, training, staffing and coordination to enable law enforcement to protect the public in an effective and professional manner.

The City Council is determined to establish a compelling factual record as the basis for understanding the events of WTO week. Our review will guide council consideration of future policies and legislation, and provide a historical base for all who would study these happenings in the future.

The City Council is not a judicial body or court, and we are keenly aware of the legal and practical limits of our inquiry. Decisions about the legal, criminal, or personnel questions raised by the WTO events are outside our purview. Our most powerful tool will be the truth, in the form of factual accounts that settle major unanswered questions facing the community. Our research will allow citizens to draw conclusions about the ethical and constitutional challenges presented by WTO, and offer a resource to churches, civil rights organizations, academics, courts, police, and other reviews.

We believe that a firm and fair review of the events, done without favor, and completed in a timely manner, will serve the community best. Our inquiry must not further divide the community, but bring it together with a truthful and candid statement of the facts.

Goals Of The Review

ARC will create a factual record, composed of documents and interview data, that will serve as a baseline for community understanding of the events of the WTO, and assist in policy making by the Seattle City Council. ARC will, if necessary, ask the City Council to use its subpoena power to compel the production of documents or to require testimony. ARC will:

1) Determine how, by whom, and on what basis the decision was made to host the WTO in Seattle.

2) Determine what planning and decisions by city employees, including police and elected officials, and by other community members and organizations, preceded the City’s hosting of the WTO Conference.

3) Examine City public safety operations during WTO week, including but not limited to police crowd control efforts in response to demonstrations and disorders in Seattle streets.

ARC will establish a documented account of the events of the WTO, outline the “lessons learned”, and recommend to the City Council possible legislation or policy changes. The WTO Accountability Review Committee (ARC) is not empowered to act as a finder of fact for legal purposes, or to act as a judicial review of specific incidents.

Products Of The Review

1) An historical account, including timelines and key documents, of the City’s decision making process and actions preceding and during the WTO Conference is the primary product of the review. If there are disputed or unresolved questions, they will be noted in the panels’ reports.

2) Identification of the key public officials and public employees who made the above decisions and actions, how they were made, and on what basis.

3) Recommendations, based on lessons learned from the factual inquiry, on what ordinances, resolutions, or policy changes should be instituted by the City.

Role Of ARC Staff

The ARC staff will consist of a Director and such additional investigative and clerical personnel as the director finds necessary.

The Director will report directly to the chair of the Accountability Review Committee, and the full committee will have final review of his actions. The Director and the Panels will give ARC regular briefings on the status of their review & investigation. The Director will also provide the ARC with regular reports as to the budget, expenditures and schedule of the project.

The Director will also receive guidance from the Panels, and will have primary responsibility for coordinating panel activities and responding to the panels requests for information or scheduling interviews. The Director will assist in drafting reports prepared by each panel

ARC staff will assemble all relevant documents, email, and electronic communications, including but not limited to, the decision to host the WTO, the strategic planning done by the executive department, other public agencies and sponsoring groups, about the operations of police on the week of Nov 29th, and the Declaration of Civil Emergency by the Mayor (including the curfew and other emergency orders that issued therefrom). These documents may include notes of meetings, internal executive documents, records of county, state and federal authorities, including law enforcement agencies involved in the WTO, and records of non-government agencies involved in WTO events. The subpoena power of the Seattle City Council can be used, if necessary, to assemble these documents.

ARC staff will do initial research and interviews for the Panels, assembling documents and conducting initial interviews if necessary, and create a baseline of information on which recorded testimony will be based. Notes or minutes of such initial interviews will form part of the public record. ARC staff will brief the Panels and ARC regularly on the status of information gathered.

The Director, based on initial documentary and interview information gathered, will schedule face-to-face interviews with persons whose testimony the Panels deem critical to the inquiry. These interviews will be recorded and portions may be transcribed. They will form part of the public record once the panel reports are complete.

Panels will, in their initial meetings, receive from the review staff background information and briefings that will give them a grounding in documentary evidence in possession of the committee at the time they begin work. Each panel will hold at least seven (7) two-hour meetings, and individual members may be called upon to interview subjects of the review.

After briefings and examination of key evidence, panels will decide whom to interview for the record. Such interviews may be conducted by Committee Staff, by the panel as a whole, or by individual panel members with staff support. Such interviews will be tape recorded, and form part of the record of the review.

Staff will create a documented timeline of events and decision-making that accompanied those events up to and during the convention.

Role Of Citizen Panels

The ARC Committee will appoint Panels of five to seven members each to address the main areas of inquiry. Such Panelists will be volunteer members chosen for their experience, expertise, and ability to fairly review the events of the WTO.

Panelists will collaborate with staff in the inquiry. Panels will receive from the review staff background information and briefings that will give them a grounding in documentary evidence in possession of the committee. They will confer among themselves about the direction, adequacy, and balance of the review. Each panel will hold at least seven (7) two-hour meetings, and may participate in interviewing subjects of the review. Transcripts will be made of these interviews, and the tapes will also be part of the public record.

After gathering all possible information, each panel will be expected to draft a report that states, on the basis of documentary and testimonial evidence, the best factual understanding of the issues raised in that panel’s charge× They may highlight factual findings they find particularly important to understanding the events of the WTO.

The ARC will review each of the panel reports for thoroughness and balance, and forward them to the Council for legislative action. ARC will submit its own findings of recommendations for legislation or changes in city policy.

Panel One – WTO Invitation

Councilmember Jan Drago, Lead

The WTO Invitation Panel will examine Seattle’s decision to host the WTO Ministerial Conference. It will review informal and formal contacts by officials of the City, Port of Seattle, King County and other community agencies to determine what lobbying, negotiations, and briefings took place and what agreements were reached.


Rachel Ben-Shmuel, past president, Denny Regrade Business Association
James Kelly, President, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle
Roger Kelly, Sr. Vice-Pres./Partner, Kennedy Assoc.
David Okimoto, Executive Director, Atlantic Street Ctr.
Bob Rohan, Former United Way of King County Board Member

Areas Of Review

1) The date when the possibility of hosting the WTO Ministerial Meeting was first known to City officials, the identity of persons involved in those contacts, and the nature of their contacts.

2) The identities of all City, county, state and federal employees, and others who participated in the decision to seek to have the City of Seattle serve as host city for the WTO Ministerial Meeting.

3) The participants, dates, places, and duration of all meetings involved in seeking to become host city.

4) The roles played by city, county, state, and federal officials, and private individuals and organizations, and any contacts with non-US nationals that preceded the decision for Seattle to host the WTO.

5) The criteria, judgements, and bases used in making the decision to host the WTO.

6) Details of any budgets, estimates, spreadsheets, or predictions about the costs or fiscal impacts of hosting the WTO meeting, and how those costs would be borne.

7) The questions or deliberations about fiscal and legal responsibility for the WTO Ministerial Meeting, the results of those deliberations, and the nature of any assurances made by any city, state, or federal officials about financial responsibility.

8 ) The texts of all correspondence, agreements, and communication between city officials or employees and the Seattle Host Organization (SHO), the WTO, and any county, state or federal agency, including Congress, the Department of State and the White House.

Panel Two – Preparations & Planning

Councilmember Nick Licata, Lead

The Preparations and Planning Panel will examine all information gathering, consultation, and planning that preceded the WTO Ministerial. It will establish what threat assessments, warnings, evaluations, and other information, including press reports, documentaries, and accounts of similar previous gatherings, were provided the officials who conducted city planning, and the decisions they based on that information. It will examine the nature of agreements or understandings reached with potential demonstrators about the protection of the rights to assembly and free speech and the conduct of protests.


Norma Kelsey, President of the Office & Professional Employees Union
Dr. Carl Livingston, Attorney & Political Scientist at Seattle Central Community College
Angela Toussant, Vice Chair of KC Human Rights Commission
Kay Godefroy, Executive Director of the Seattle Neighborhood Group
Beth Wojick, President of Seafair
Clark Pickett, Pike Pine Community Council
Sister Kathleen Pruitt – Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace

Areas Of Review

1) Identities of all city employees, state and federal employees, members of the Seattle community, and others, who participated in the WTO Planning.

2) The dates, place, participants, and duration of all planning meetings.

3) The mechanisms by which they assembled information, conferred, and deliberated.

4) The information on which persons involved based their planning, including documents or briefings by FBI, ATF, Secret Service, foreign governments, and any state or county law enforcement agencies. The extent to which information from undercover agents was received from any source.

5) The ways and extent that other similar national or international gatherings were examined for security preparations, including other WTO, NATO, APEC meetings, major sports gatherings such as Olympic and Goodwill Games, and US political conventions.

6) The details of all initial, intermediate, and final plans that were prepared, together with identities of persons who prepared, examined, edited, altered, or approved such plans.

7) The feedback, rejection, or acceptance of city plans by state, county, or federal officials, consultants, or others involved.

8 ) The dates and details of all “table exercises” that were conducted, the names of participants, and the results of those exercises.

9) Details of all contingency plans for civil emergency, including plans to use riot control methods and equipment, such as tear gas, pepper gas, or other technologies, plans to utilize other law enforcement agencies, federal troops or police, plans to declare curfews or close areas of the city, and plans to deploy, house, feed, and otherwise support special personnel.

10) Preparation, stockpiling, and amounts of riot control equipment for contingency use.

11) Financial and resource planning that detailed the costs of plans and contingencies.

12) The extent to which policy, training, staffing levels, and supervision helped or prevented law enforcement personnel in protecting the public or maintaining an environment in which peaceful protest could occur.

13) Contacts and communications with the SHO (Seattle Host Organization), community groups, and elected officials concerning legal or fiscal responsibility for the WTO meeting. Details of all proposals that might have imposed conditions or responsibilities on the SHO or WTO, and the outcome of such proposals.

14) Contacts or negotiations with county, state, or federal officials, including Members of Congress, about subsidizing the security costs of the meetings, and the results of such contacts or negotiations.

15) Decisions about the need for training of police, and what training was conducted for any officials, police, or others who would be involved, including police or law enforcement agencies outside Seattle who provided personnel under mutual aid agreements.

16) The nature and extent of briefings given all city officials, including the City Council, about planning by the Executive, SHO, or others in the Seattle Community

17) The nature and extent of all meetings and negotiations with groups planning to protest, including organized labor, environmental, and others.

18) The nature and extent of advance agreements with such groups about their conduct while demonstrating, and the strategic decisions by city officials. based on those agreements.

19) The number and affiliation of the protestors who were expected.

20) The final plan for parade route, off-limit areas, delegate areas, delegate protection, delegate movement, and protection of venues. Plans, if any, for operations on Capitol Hill.

Panel Three – Operations

Councilmember Jim Compton, lead

The operations panel will examine all city activities during the week of WTO aimed at crowd control, protection of venues and delegates, dispersal of crowds, implementation of the Declaration of Civil Emergency, use of regional law enforcement agencies under mutual aid agreements or in other ways, the command structure employed in operations, how and what orders were issued, and the rules under which police operated. Operations of police outside the WTO meeting area, particularly on Capitol Hill, will be examined. The panel will work to determine the following:


– Timothy Burgess, 2000 chair of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission
– Carlos de Imus, attorney at firm of Ogden Murphy
– Eric Schnapper, UW Law School Professor, former NAACP Legal Defense Fund Counsel
– Dorothy Mann, UW School of Public Affairs, Former Associate Professor
– Fifth Panelist To Be Determined

Area Under Review

1) Identities and functions of the various individuals making operational decisions for the city, and the identities of any county, state, or federal officials with whom they communicated during WTO operations.

2) City, county, and state resources employed, including but not limited to cars, riot control equipment, radios, special clothing and “riot gear” barricades and loudspeaker devices. This inventory will establish what tear gas, pepper gas, “beanbags”, rubber bullets, and all similar riot control devices were employed, and the locations where they were employed. It will establish the dollar cost of resources used.

3) A basic timeline and narrative accounts that establish, to the extent possible, what happened in each of the encounters of police with protestors, or with other citizens.

4) Tactical assessments and decisions made by police in the field. The identity of officials making each decision, in the field and in the city’s central command operations.

5) The nature and content of consultations, communications, and contacts with federal officials, including but not limited to FBI, ATF, and Secret Service, during city operations.

6) Relevant police action protocols and “rules of engagement” that were used, whether police guidelines were followed, and whether police guidelines were adequate to the situations that occurred.

7) The rationale for the apparent decision to ignore some incidents of property damage or destruction.

8 ) The efforts made to honor previous agreements with demonstrators, and efforts made to protect the rights to assembly and speech

9) Communications, intelligence, and reports from the field received by city officials.

10) The version of street disturbances as seen from the eyes of citizens, protestors, residents, law enforcement personnel, and businesspersons, in the affected neighborhoods.

11) How decisions were reached to arrest persons, and on what basis, what protocols were used, and how those arrested were processed, transported, and housed by police and others.

12) The role played by the Seattle City Attorney’s office, including but not limited to, arrest of persons and their processing.

13) The treatment received by arrested persons.

14) The extent to which policy, training, staffing levels and supervision helped or hindered law enforcement personnel in maintaining an environment in which peaceful protest could occur.

15) The nature of any threats or warning of terrorist attack, including but not limited to the use of incendiary devices, on which operational decisions were based.

16) Reasons or rationale for all decisions to control or block citizen movement, to issue warnings to disperse, and to take measures including marching, tear gas, pepper gas, and other techniques, to disperse crowds.

17) The extent and nature of injuries to persons and property, including law enforcement personnel, during police operations, and the effect of disturbances and police operations on business in affected neighborhoods.

All questions regarding the WTO Accountability Review Committee should be directed to in the office of Councilmember Jim Compton

Comments and suggestions can be sent directly to the WTO Accountability Review Committee at their web site

Keep in touch…


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