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Originally published Monday, February 7, 2011 at 5:29 PM

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City official fined for putting police sticker on family SUV

A Seattle Department of Transportation official has been fined $300 for putting a police sticker on the back of his family car.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Seattle Department of Transportation official has been fined $300 for putting a police sticker on the back of his family vehicle.

Joseph Benavides said he admitted the infraction to the city's Ethics and Elections Commission, even though he doesn't think he did anything wrong.

Benavides, head of the city's traffic signs and marking shop, said Monday that he was cleaning out his shop and spotted some defective stickers, including those with the Seattle Police Department logo.

He wanted to know how they would stand up in the weather, so he said he stuck one on his SUV window last November as an experiment. When his supervisor told him it was inappropriate, he peeled it off on Dec. 16.

Benavides said he was reported to the ethics office by a whistle-blower.

He said the sticker was small, 4-inch by 4-inch, and black — not the standard blue police color. "I didn't think anything about it," he said. "I put it on my blue Suburban with standard plates."

Under the agreement with the ethics commission Wednesday, Benavides "should have known that the SPD decal in the rear window of his blue Chevy Suburban could lead to confusion over whether his car was an official police vehicle," said Wayne Barnett, executive director of the commission, in the settlement agreement.

Under the Seattle Ethics Code, an employee may not use any property for a purpose which is, or to a reasonable person would appear to be, for other than a city purpose.

The agreement said Benavides acknowledges he violated the code when he misused city property.

Benavides said it was never his intention to misuse city property and that he had no idea putting the sticker on his SUV would lead to a $300 fine, which he intends to pay.

"I didn't agree with [the sanction]," he said. "It wasn't my intention. I had no idea it was wrong, none at all."

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

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