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David Dicks (left) and Norm Dicks. City of Tacoma photo.

David Dicks (left) and Norm Dicks. City of Tacoma photo.


Congressman's Son Steps Down From Puget Sound Agency For UW Job

John Ryan

The head of the agency responsible for cleaning up Puget Sound is resigning. David Dicks is leaving the Puget Sound Partnership to take a part–time job at the University of Washington. KUOW's John Ryan reports.


In the press release announcing Dicks' departure, Governor Chris Gregoire praised his dedication to the health of Puget Sound. David Dicks did not respond to KUOW's requests for comment.

During his three–year tenure at the Partnership, federal funding for Puget Sound cleanup increased dramatically. David's father, Congressman Norm Dicks, claims credit for much of that funding.

In the press release, David Dicks says his agency has elevated Puget Sound to the national stage on a par with other threatened estuaries like Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades. Martha Kongsgaard is chair of the board that oversees the Partnership.

Kongsgaard: "David was part of team that envisioned this, that shepherded it through the Legislature, birthed it and built it. I mean, it was an amazing effort by an amazingly energetic, visionary guy. I am really happy that he's not going to be going too far away."

Dicks will serve on the agency's board of directors. He's the second Partnership leader to step down this year. Board chair Bill Ruckelshaus retired this summer. The press releases announcing Dicks' and Ruckelshaus' departures don't mention an unfavorable state audit earlier this year. It [the audit] said the Partnership had circumvented state contracting law and misspent state funds.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has just begun its comprehensive review of the Partnership's use of federal dollars. Armina Nolan is a grants management officer with EPA.

Nolan: "There's strings attached to federal money, so people have to make sure that they're following the proper procedures when they take federal grants. So when we learned of the state auditor's findings, we sort of beefed up our review to make sure that we double check everything."

EPA hopes to finish that review by the end of the year.

A KUOW investigation this summer found the Partnership gave no–bid contracts to former staffers of David's father, Congressman Norm Dicks. The connections between the Congressman and his son's agency even became a campaign issue this fall. Here's an ad from Dicks' Republican challenger, Doug Cloud:

Ad: "Then Congressmen like Norm Dicks in Washington state earmark those funds for bogus agencies like the Puget Sound Partnership. His son David magically becomes executive director of that agency, and he awards illegal no–bid contracts — "

Fact check: No magic involved. Governor Gregoire appointed attorney David Dicks to head the Puget Sound Partnership in 2007. The effort to replace him is already under way. Dicks' new job will be at the University of Washington's new College of the Environment. College Dean Lisa Graumlich says Dicks beat out more than 70 other applicants to become the college's director of strategic partnerships and civic engagement. She says the job is only three–fifths time because of the university's budget woes.

Graumlich: "We very carefully, in these lean times, allocate resources as best we can."

UW will pay Dicks $75,000 a year in the part–time position. That's $50,000 less than he currently earns full–time at the Puget Sound Partnership.

I'm John Ryan, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2010, KUOW

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