Report on state review of Port of Port Angeles expected Tuesday

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The preliminary results of an early audit of Port of Port Angeles operations, which was prompted by citizen concerns over the June 24 resignation of former Executive Director Jeff Robb, will be presented at Tuesday’s port commission meeting.

Mike Riley, state auditor in charge, and Carol Ehlinger, Team Port Orchard program manager and assistant manager for the audit, will present the results of the accountability and financial review at a public audit exit conference at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday in the public meeting room of the tax district’s administrative office building, 338 W. First St.

The state auditor on Friday refused a state Public Records Act request for the audit. Agency spokesman Thomas Shapley said the report is not complete.

“As with any audit, issues, corrections and clarifications may come up during the exit conference or technical review, which can alter the final report,” Shapley said in an email.

The audit, which began Sept. 25, would have occurred in early 2014 but for concerns expressed by citizens who called the auditor’s office about the events surrounding Robb’s resignation, Shapely said.

The accountability portion of the audit focuses on the port’s hiring and meeting practices and the port’s compliance with port, state and federal rules and regulations, including those dealing with hiring practices and open-meeting requirements.

At the same June 24 port commission meeting at which Robb resigned, commissioners voted 2-1 to immediately hire him to the unadvertised, new position of director of environmental affairs at the same salary he had earned as executive director, $138,000, without discussion on Robb’s salary or the need for the position.

Robb said then that he quit as executive director for health reasons and intends to retire in July, when he becomes eligible for full state retirement benefits.

His resignation was preceded by a port lease-related whistle-blower complaint by former Director of Business Development and current port Commissioner Colleen McAleer, who replaced Paul McHugh following a campaign during which the whistle-blower complaint was a centerpiece.

McHugh and Commissioner John Calhoun voted to hire Robb to the new position, while Commissioner Jim Hallett was opposed.

A scathing report on the complaint by Port Angeles lawyer Donna Knifsend reviewed Robb’s tenure as executive director as seen through the eyes of port employees.

She issued an executive summary June 17 regarding “conflicts within the organization.”

The port met in executive session June 19 to discuss Robb’s job performance.

The public is excluded from executive sessions, and commissioners cannot make decisions during these sessions under state law.

Executive sessions also are not recorded.

In Robb’s one-page statement at the June 24 port commissioners meeting, he cited “serious health issues” and said he and commissioners “have agreed that I will continue at the port as director of environmental affairs to facilitate transition of this important work” related to environmental cleanup of port property.

No such agreement was discussed in open session.

Calhoun, who helped Robb write the statement, according to a Peninsula Daily News public records request, said it was “a mistake” that the word agreed was used.

McHugh said Robb “misspoke.”

Robb has said he will not comment further on his resignation.

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

Last modified: February 23. 2014 8:02PM
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