Port of Port Angeles to seek comment on new director
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Interim executive director of the Port of Port Angeles Ken O’Hollaren speaks during a meeting of the port commissioners Tuesday. —Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Port of Port Angeles commissioners endorsed interim Executive Director Ken O’Hollaren as the port’s new permanent executive director and will consider signing his contract March 11, they decided Tuesday.

But they first want to hear from the public about it and will schedule a special meeting for next week, they said.

No time and date had been set as of Tuesday.

O’Hollaren, the Port of Longview’s retired executive director, would make $145,000, which is $7,000 more than his predecessor, Jeff Robb.

Robb resigned in June, citing health issues, and was immediately rehired as environmental affairs director at the same $138,000 salary.

O’Hollaren’s resume and background at the time the commissioners were looking for an interim director in August were “impeccable,” board President Jim Hallett said.

“That certainly helped me as an individual to make the decision in public to hire him as interim director.”

As interim director, O’Hollaren, 58, makes $100 an hour for about 32 hours a week.

“I really appreciated the discussion today and really appreciated the port allowing me to present myself as an option for the commission to consider,” he said after the meeting.

If commissioners hire O’Hollaren, the Seattle executive search firm Waldron, which was under contract to find an interim director, will receive 20 percent of O’Hollaren’s new salary, or $29,000, as a fee from the port, according to the terms of that contract.

But the port would terminate a $45,000 contract with Waldron to find candidates for the executive director position.

O’Hollaren would receive six weeks of vacation leave and two weeks of sick leave immediately upon signing the agreement. The same amount of leave would accrue annually in successive years.

He also would receive a maximum $10,000 relocation allowance, a $750 monthly rental allowance for up to six months and a 56-cents-a-mile mileage reimbursement for one, 370-mile round-trip per week to Longview, where his wife, Denise, still lives and where the couple owns a home.

If O’Hollaren is terminated, he would be compensated for accrued leave but would not receive a severance package, an aspect of the agreement commissioners praised.

“The absence of a severance agreement speaks volumes,” Hallett said, adding that it indicates the existence of a “trusting relationship” between O’Hollaren and the port.

“You came in less than happy circumstances,” Hallett added, noting that from O’Hollaren’s first days as interim director last summer, he worked on port lease-related issues.

The leases were the focus of a 2013 whistle-blower complaint by then-port Director of Business Development Colleen McAleer, who was elected to the port board of commissioners in November.

McAleer noted Tuesday that she worked with O’Hollaren as a port staff member and commissioner.

“At this juncture, we really need continuity,” she said.

“My experience is that he is a leader, he is a proven leader, not just seven months here at the port, but also 24 years plus as director at the Port of Longview.

“He understands the public process and advocates for that.”

Commissioners had kept O’Hollaren’s name a secret since Jan. 27, when they emerged from an executive session and, with almost no discussion, directed port attorney Simon Barnhart to negotiate a contract with a candidate they would not identify.

The name became public late last week when a draft contract that bore O’Hollaren’s name was published online in the commissioners’ agenda packet for Tuesday’s meeting.

The process of selecting O’Hollaren was questioned by Nancy Krier, state assistant attorney general for open government.

When asked about it, she said she was concerned that as part of the hiring process, it appeared that the commissioners may have “made some preliminary decision” in the Jan. 27 executive session.

If true, it could be a violation of the state Open Public Meetings Act.

In a lengthy statement Tuesday, Hallett defended the hiring process.

The option of hiring the interim director for the permanent position was part of Waldron’s original contract with the port, Hallett said.

“There were at least 15 different times when the subject of the hiring process was fully disclosed to the public,” Hallett said.

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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 25. 2014 6:42PM
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