Port of Port Angeles board expected to OK new executive director, despite last-minute complaints

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Ken O'Hollaren's move from interim to permanent Port of Port Angeles executive director is expected to be approved by the three port commissioners today, despite last-minute objections from Jerry Lamb, an inventor and port tenant, and Bob Lynette, a retired teacher and engineer who lives in Sequim.

The commissioners will meet at 9 a.m. in the public meeting room of the port administrative office building, 338 W. First St., Port Angeles, to vote on awarding O'Hollaren, 59, a $145,000-a-year contract, $7,000 more than the salary paid to his controversial predecessor, Jeff Robb

In an email sent Sunday to all three commissioners, Lynette said he was particularly concerned about O'Hollaren's plans to hold the job for only three to six years — “hardly providing an incentive for developing a long-range strategic plan for the future of our communities.

“Why wouldn't we be seeking a person with a fresher outlook who appreciates today's economic trends and what is needed to attract today's businesses to our area?”

Lynette said O'Hollaren's track record at the Port of Longview — including maintenance issues at the port — also raised “a number of questions.”

O'Hollaren worked there for 32 years, including 24 as executive director before retiring in December 2012.

The only commissioner responding to Lynette was Colleen McAleer, the port's former director of business development.

“Of the fourteen managers and directors at the port, we only have three employees that have been in their position for more than two years,” she wrote.

“Bringing in a new executive director now would make us wildly less effective than we are today

“The new staff that has been hired over the last two years or so is an exceptional, highly qualified team,” McAleer added, “but they have little-to-no historical perspective about our port.

“Plus there exists extensive backlog work to be accomplished in the areas of accounting, leasing, maintenance and environmental compliance at the port.

“Because of this, our staff and employees have to tackle much more than they have in decades. Ken's leadership is supportive, steady, thoughtful and thorough. That's exactly what we need right now.”

A state audit of the port released last month cited four areas of concern related to 2013 meal reimbursements and 2011 and 2012 finances, including lease-related issues that cost the port $200,000.

One finding said the port lacked adequate internal controls over lease contracts.

McAleer and port board president Jim Hallett said Monday they support O'Hollaren and plan to vote to approve his contract today.

The third commissioner, John Calhoun, who has expressed strong support for O'Hollaren in the past, could not be reached for comment Monday.

“I think he is exceptional, and the people expressing their concerns have not worked with him directly,” McAleer said. “I think we are really lucky to have him.”

O'Hollaren said he has been open about his intention to stay from three to six years as executive director.

“My comment stands on its own,” he said.

Lynette in his email said he was concerned that a $200 million grain terminal was built at the Port of Longview during O'Hollaren's tenure by out-of-state, non-union workers.

“The port could have been a major player by requiring the use of local labor, but apparently their lease for the property had only vague requirements for using local, union people,” Lynette wrote.

But O'Hollaren said public entities cannot dictate how a private-capital-investment construction project is undertaken.

“[The Port of Longview] as well as most ports promote the concept of local labor when possible, and we did in that case.”

Hallett said he had reviewed O'Hollaren's tenure in Longview.

“The overwhelming feedback has been thank you, good choice, and we hope he gets the vote of the commissioners,” Hallett said.

“If we get three to five years [from O'Hollaren], that's probably as good as I can expect. From a leadership perspective, that's long-term by most definitions.

“When the time comes to pass the baton to the next leader, I would like to think we will be in a very good position.”

Commissioners selected O'Hollaren as the interim director in August to take over for Robb, whose resignation as executive director came in June.

The commissioners did not advertise for the permanent position.

Lamb, the president of Magna Force Inc., a port tenant, said in an email last week that had the commissioners opened up the hiring process, he would have suggested a candidate who “is extremely qualified to lead our port into the future.”

That person is Randall D. Rogers of Poulsbo, the former director of the U.S. Maritime Administration Pacific Northwest and Alaska Gateway Office, according Rogers' resume, which Lamb attached to his email.

In an email Sunday evening to all three port commissioners, Lamb chided them for avoiding “the open public process.”

“Why is Commissioner McAleer and the other commissioners pushing so hard to cheat their constituents out of this opportunity and instead circumvent the open public process? The very public they asked to support and vote for them.

“I have no beef with Mr. O'Hollaren.

“If he really is the top choice individual and really wants the job then there should be no fear of letting him prove it.

“Choice and competition is what will lead us into a better future for all our citizens.”

Jay Kalla, secretary-treasurer of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 27 of Port Angeles, would not comment Monday on O'Hollaren's impending appointment.

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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: March 10. 2014 11:47PM
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