Port of Port Angeles to interview interim executive director candidates

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Three candidates for interim Port of Port Angeles executive director will be interviewed Friday at a special meeting of the port commissioners, who may allow the public to listen to the commissioners' back-and-forth sessions with the applicants.

The board also will discuss a job description for the director of environmental affairs position, which already has been filled by former Executive Director Jeff Robb.

The meeting was announced late Wednesday afternoon, though it was not clear whether it would be open to the public or a closed executive session.

The meeting will be at 1 p.m. in the port administration building, 338 W. First St.

The interviews with the candidates — commissioners have not identified them, citing privacy — are scheduled for 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

A fourth candidate “declined the opportunity to participate in the process,” Port Commission President Jim Hallett said Wednesday.

The special meeting was requested by Commissioners John Calhoun and Paul McHugh.

The commissioners' regular meeting will be at 9:30 a.m. Monday at the administrative offices' meeting room.

Robb resigned June 24 to take an environmental affairs director position that he said he and commissioners already had agreed he would take — at the same $138,000 salary he earned as executive director but with fewer responsibilities, without an official job description and without the position being advertised.

Robb also said he will retire in July 2014 when he is eligible for full state retirement benefits.

Open or closed?

Hallett said the three candidates, all men, each would be interviewed in different ways: one in person, one by phone and one by Skype, an Internet telephone application that has video options.

“The interviews may take place in open session or [closed] executive session,” Hallett said.

“My preference is to do it in open session so the public knows what we are talking about.”

Calhoun said Wednesday he prefers to conduct the interviews in executive session “to protect the privacy of the individual until they are ready to negotiate a contract” but that he would vote for public interviews “if Jim has strong feelings that he wants it in public session.”

McHugh said Wednesday he would rather the interviews take place in executive session but that he will make a decision after discussing it Friday at the meeting.

Job description

Calhoun, whose idea it was to create the environmental affairs director position, wrote a two-page proposed job description that commissioners will consider Friday.

The position's “primary functions” would include responsibility “for conducting the port's work on environmental issues including implementing port policy, regulatory compliance with cleanup sites and representing the port's interests, as directed by the executive director, by working with environmental regulators, partners in environmental remediation orders such as cities and corporations, and other stakeholders,” the job description says.

Robb, a 29-year port employee hired as port executive director in 2009 who had received a 12 percent pay increase that began in January, had said he was the target of a “hostile work environment” at the port and threatened to file a lawsuit if he was terminated, according to an investigation into a port-lease-related whistle-blower complaint.

“This job was created to resolve the issues that the commission was dealing with the staff and the whole business we've been talking about,” Calhoun said, adding that the position also was created “to support the port's need for transition work in the environmental affairs area with the cleanups we have.”

A complaint was filed May 16 by Port Director of Business Development Colleen McAleer, an Aug. 6 primary election candidate for the Sequim-area District 1 seat held by McHugh, who is running for re-election. Del DelaBarre also is running for the position in the primary.

Allegations

The complaint alleged Robb was unresponsive to issues regarding port leases that McAleer said were not in compliance with bonds or security agreements.

Complaint investigator Donna Knifsend, a Port Angeles lawyer, determined there were no violations of state law and that McAleer's whistle-blower complaint was “brought in good faith” but that if there is a hostile work environment, Robb is responsible for it.

She also recommended commissioners consider hiring an outside forensic accounting firm “to review all financial documents to ascertain whether they are in compliance for any potential audit by the state.”

The state Auditor's Office recommended in a March 11 exit conference after an examination of port finances that the port “should develop procedures to ensure lease rates are revised/renegotiated when appropriate.”

“One lease was noted with rent of $25/month, based on rates negotiated in 1989,” the agency said in an exit conference report.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 17. 2013 5:47PM
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