Jefferson County Public Utility District commissioners remove general manager

Need for different direction cited

Larry Dunbar

Larry Dunbar

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County Public Utility District commissioners have removed General Manager Larry Dunbar from his position, saying he isn’t a good fit for the organization.

Kevin Streett, former assistant general manager, will return to the role he had before he left the organization last month, effective Thursday.

After the Wednesday night meeting, the commissioners had a verbal agreement from Street that he would accept the position. Streett was the first electrical employee of Jefferson PUD.

Dunbar was put immediately on paid administrative leave not to exceed 30 days.

The utility planned a company-wide meeting Thursday morning to announce the personnel changes.

Dunbar began work for the utility April 23. He was hired on a three-year contract but with a clause that gives him severance pay of one year’s salary — $175,000 — if the PUD commissioners decide to let him go early.

In discussing the decision to remove Dunbar, commissioners Jeff Randall, Kenneth Collins and Wayne King all said that the organization needs to take a different direction. All said they had significant concerns about the direction the utility was headed, without providing details.

During an extended executive session of almost 90 minutes, the three commissioners reviewed Dunbar’s performance and each expressed their opinion. The issues were summarized and discussed in the open public meeting.

“Jefferson PUD is unique as in we are brand new and we expanded significantly and we have a lot of debt,” Randall said.

“Larry came on and knew it was going to be a big challenge. The contract we have reflects that. There is a clause that states if the board decides that the general manager is not the right one, if we decide to go in another direction, there is a clause in there that gives him one-year severance.

“That acknowledges that Larry took a big risk coming here.

“The Jefferson PUD is a young utility and grew by a factor of five to 40 employees, and from a $2 million budget to a $35 million budget,” Randall continued. “It was a really challenging situation and Larry gave it everything he had.”

Collins said he felt that the organization needs to take a different path.

“I say that with a great deal of regret,” Collins said. “I’m glad there is a provision in the contract that fairly compensates you for the risk you have taken to come here and struggle with this organization.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that the fit just wasn’t right.

“There’s no question that you’ve brought strengths and talents into your position and you’ve worked very hard,” Collins continued.”We are not looking at a ‘for cause’ situation.

“It’s in recognition of that that we want to move forward.”

King said that “we are getting away from what my belief is that the PUD needs to do to move the utility forward for the customers and the PUD.”

Randall said there is an urgency in dealing with some of the issues the PUD faces.

“The PUD has significant challenges and to proceed in the direction we need to go to be successful there are challenges we need to face,” Randall said.

“I would say to meet those challenges, we need to go in a different direction. I feel we are in a strong financial position right now and Larry has had success in helping us professionalize our public meetings and in working with our staff, especially our customer service representatives.”

Randall told Dunbar that there are a lot of relationships that are unique to the position compared to the positions he previously held with cities where there was a large city council and “someone above you and between them.”

Dunbar was an energy advisor for the Snohomish PUD before moving to Richland where he spent 18 years as a resource manager for that city.

He worked for the city of Port Angeles as deputy director of public works and utilities for 12 years. From 2012 to March 2018, he served as energy services director for the city of Ellensburg.

________

Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at jmcmacken@peninsuladailynews.com.

More in News

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Seattle, center, walks on a trail in Neah Bay with Tribal Chairman Timothy J. Greene Sr., left, and others. (Sen. Murray's office)
Murray tours West End facilities

Senator secured funding for road, medical center

Olympic Medical Heart Center director Leonard Anderson examines a new echocardiograph at the Port Angeles hospital facility. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Foundation donation aids OMC’s heart center

Echocardiogram machine to help more patients receive care locally

OMC providing facts about Proposition 1

Hospital sees $2.2M in savings following consultant tips

From left, Leland Gibson, Tucker Piontek and Jeff Matthews are lowered into the water aboard Fern, a Nordic folk boat commissioned by Michigan resident Charles Jahn, who was present to see his boat in the water for the first time on Friday at Port Townsend’s Boat Haven Marina. Fern was built over three years by three separate classes of students at The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. (Elijah Sussman/Peninsula Daily News)
Boat launched in Port Townsend

From left, Leland Gibson, Tucker Piontek and Jeff Matthews are lowered into… Continue reading

Maya DeLano, executive assistant at Composite Recycling Technology Center, demonstrates the durability of recycled carbon fiber during a job fair on Friday organized by the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce at the Vern Burton Community Center. (Christopher Urquia/Peninsula Daily News)
Job fair in Port Angeles

Maya DeLano, executive assistant at Composite Recycling Technology Center, demonstrates the durability… Continue reading

Three generations of Bike the US for MS riders — from left, Michael Davies, Jordyn Davies and Richard Davies — visit the Sequim MS Support Group. (Sequim MS Support Group)
Bike the US for MS makes stop in Sequim

The Sequim Multiple Sclerosis Support Group continued its tradition of… Continue reading

Road work set next week on state Highway 20

Maintenance crews from the state Department of Transportation will… Continue reading

Recall petitions dismissed

Judge cites petitioner’s lack of standing

Clallam Transit awarded $3.6M grant

Agency plans to replace several buses in its fleet

Western hemlock could provide housing option

Mill processing trees, removing moisture content

Abbot Construction’s crew responsible for crane lifting the two-story concrete walls pack up as new crew members move in for steel reinforcement on Monday. (Elijah Sussman/Peninsula Daily News)
Jefferson Healthcare adding capacity, programs

Expanded services to be offered upon 2025 opening