Former port director begins new job: 'A whirlwind'
Peninsula Daily News
Jeff Robb began his new job as the Port of Port Angeles' director of environmental affairs on Thursday.
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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“I'd like to tell you I'm doing well, but I'm not,” he said Thursday in a telephone interview after starting his new post Monday.
“I'm just recovering from a fair amount of stress.
“I'm coming back into what a whirlwind looks like,” he added.
On June 24, five days after port commissioners evaluated his job performance as port executive director and right before he left to go on leave, he announced in a statement that he and the commissioners “have agreed” that he would be rehired as environmental affairs director.
He will still get the executive director salary of $138,000 a year, according to a contract commissioners approved 2-1 and signed at the June 24 meeting.
Commissioner John Calhoun, who helped Robb write the statement, said it was “a mistake” for Robb to have used the word “agreed,” while Commissioner Paul McHugh said Robb “misspoke.”
Robb would not comment Thursday in detail on the contract.
All he would say was, “The commission indicated that they prefer I don't comment and don't speak to the media.”
Commission President Jim Hallett, who voted against the contract, said: “To the best of my knowledge, I am not aware of any instructions one way or the other to this person or any person on staff that anyone can or can't talk to the media.”
At the newly created, unadvertised position, Robb also will not have personnel management duties and will work outside the port administrative offices.
Robb said he will not work from home but from an office at the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe's Economic Development Authority offices on Business Park Loop in Carlsborg.
Robb, 59, who turns 60 in November, also announced at the June 24 meeting that he will resign his new position in July 2014, when he becomes eligible for full state retirement benefits.
Robb, who also said “serious health issues” led to his decision to resign as executive director, went on two weeks of leave before he returned to work Monday.
While he was gone, his new contract sparked numerous letters to the editor in the Peninsula Daily News that have been critical of the contract.
It also was the topic Tuesday at a Port Angeles Business Association breakfast meeting at which Hallett gave a presentation.
Calhoun said in an earlier interview that a dysfunctional relationship between Robb and the port's senior staff, combined with a fear of litigation, led to Robb's resignation and his new contract.
Robb said senior staff members were going around him to talk to commissioners instead of having him relay their concerns to board members.
“That's part of the issue, when they are going around and not following protocol,” Robb said,
“It's not accurate that I was not being responsive,” he added.
Robb now makes 64 percent more than the highest-paid senior staff person, Finance Director Karen Goschen, who earns $84,134 a year.
Robb said he had cancer around 2005, when he had his prostate removed, and until recently was worried that he faced another round of surgery on his thyroid because of tumors that proved to be non-malignant.
“One of the biggest concerns I had was, with this elevated stress, that it was gong to result in another round of cancer surgery,” he said.
“The job comes with a measurable level of stress, but when things really start to compound, that's when you really have to be concerned about your health.”
Robb said he has been busy performing duties outlined in his contract, which include overseeing western Port Angeles Harbor cleanup issues, including holding conference calls with lawyers.
As soon as he got home from leave, he set up his new office.
There's no available office space at the port administrative building, where the new executive director will work, though that might not be the best place for him anyway, Robb said.
“With a new executive director, it would probably be a bit awkward to have the previous executive director sitting next door,” Robb said.
“They need to work independently.”
The port expects to hire an interim executive director in the next two to four weeks, commissioners have said, and an executive director after Jan. 1.
Meanwhile by September, long before Robb's permanent replacement has been hired, the state Auditor's Office will begin a review of the circumstances surrounding the passage of Robb's new contract to determine how well the port commission's actions comply with port, state and federal regulations.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: July 11. 2013 6:19PM