By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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Hallett, questioned by Port Angeles Business Association members at the group’s weekly breakfast meeting, was asked if there was a long-term plan that indicated that the port needed the position “and what does that person do.”
“You are asking the same question I was asking a couple of weeks ago,” responded Hallett, the lone port commissioner to vote against the new contract for Robb that commissioners approved 2-1 on June 24.
“I don’t know the answer to that question,” he said.
“If there is one, I’d certainly like someone to tell me.
“I think it’s certainly the right question to ask.”
The commissioners held an executive-session review of Robb’s job performance June 19.
Five days later, at the June 24 meeting, Robb announced he was resigning the executive director position effective immediately.
Robb, 59, also announced he was taking the job of director of environmental affairs and would resign permanently in July 2014 after 30 years of public employment, making him eligible as a 60-year-old for state retirement benefits.
Commissioners then approved a contract that paid him the same executive-director salary of $138,000 for the environmental affairs job.
According to Finance Director Karen Goschen, the pact also made her former boss the only current non-union port employee who can be terminated only for cause, or malfeasance, instead of “at will” by a port supervisor, and the only one with a contract.
The contract also allows him to work at home and to resign with 30 days’ notice.
His duties “include but are not necessarily limited to” working on environmental issues such as natural resource damage assessments, state Model Toxics Control Act issues, Port Angeles Harbor sediment investigation and remediation, and marine trades area and former Peninsula Plywood mill site remediation, according to his contract.
“The port reserves the right to provide a more detailed job description of the employee’s position at a future date,” the contract said.
Hallett said Tuesday that he does not know if a job description will be written in the future.
“It should have happened before you fill a job,” Hallett said.
The position also was never advertised, putting it at odds with port policy that states openings “will normally be posted” and “normally be advertised.”
Hallett said he and Commissioners John Calhoun and Paul McHugh — who voted to approve Robb’s new contract — are on two tracks: one to hire an interim executive director probably in the next 30 to 45 days, and the other to hire a permanent executive director, under whom Robb will work, by early 2014.
The board decided Monday to interview four interim-director candidates whom commissioners did not identify, though McHugh said in an interview that all are men.
Commissioners would not say if local candidates are in the mix.
Seattle executive-search firm Waldron is under a maximum $45,000 contract to find candidates to fill the permanent director position and will be paid a fee from the port if commissioners hire an interim director whose name was submitted by the company.
Without an interim director, commissioners must meet in special session to approve all expenditures over $5,000.
“We want to get someone in the interim position as soon as possible,” Hallett told PABA members.
“What do we expect them to do, he or she?
“The public should be engaged in that process.”
Spokesman Matt Miller of the state Auditor’s Office said last week the agency will begin a review by September of the circumstances surrounding Robb’s new contract to make sure the port’s actions comply with port, state and federal regulations, including those pertaining to the state Open Public Meetings Act.
The Auditor’s Office review was cited at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting by some among the two dozen participants as a reason to refrain from discussing the issue.
“I don’t know if I’m comfortable discussing it without all the facts,” PABA President Don Perry said at the meeting’s outset.
“If the audit does come out with all the facts, maybe we can make a decision and a comment then.”
Edna Petersen, owner of the Necessities and Temptations gift store, said the discussion could take place “without innuendo.”
“To dodge the elephant in the community demeans us, in my opinion,” Petersen said.
In resigning, Robb cited “serious health issues.”
Calhoun later said a “dysfunctional” relationship between Robb and the port’s senior staff also played a part in Robb’s resignation and new contract.
In addition, Calhoun, the commission’s senior member and former board president, said the contract was signed under a fear of litigation from Robb or senior staff members.
“To avoid that, we settled on this course of action,” Calhoun said in an earlier interview.
“The salary was part of all the other elements of the settlement.”
Calhoun and McHugh did not return calls for comment by early Tuesday afternoon.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.