Long-time Clallam County PUD commissioner suffers stroke, resigns from post

Hugh Haffner

Hugh Haffner

PORT ANGELES — Longtime and soon-to-be former Clallam County Public Utility District Commissioner Hugh Haffner continues to recover from a May 10 stroke, his wife said.

“He can’t hardly do anything,” Diane Haffner said Friday. “I have him at home. It’s really hard to get him up and get him down.”

Haffner, 71, submitted a formal notice of resignation, effective July 15, on Thursday to PUD General Manager Doug Nass, the PUD board and county Auditor Shoona Riggs, citing “recent health concerns.”

“I find it no longer possible to continue my duties as commissioner,” said Haffner, the District 2 board representative for 24 years, who had said earlier he planned to retire.

“I have enjoyed my career at Clallam PUD, and I am sad to leave all of the wonderful PUD employees and my fellow commissioners behind,” he said.

Attorney Jerry Rubin of the Seattle law firm William Kastner is conducting a personnel investigation into the circumstances surrounding Haffner’s resignation, said Rubin and PUD officials who have declined to be more specific about an ongoing investigation.

PUD spokeswoman Nicole Clark said Friday that Rubin has not submitted his final report.

Rubin did not return calls for comment Friday.

Haffner’s departure was discussed by the commissioners during April 16 and April 26 closed executive sessions that were held to discuss “litigation or potential litigation.”

Haffner said on May 6, four days before his stroke, that he would resign in mid-July to take advantage of his PUD commissioner health insurance benefits.

He said his health was hampered by neck and back injuries he sustained in a 2013 car crash.

Haffner would not comment on potential complaints against him.

“I’m just getting tired of it,” he said.

“It’s time to get out of it and not have to deal with it anymore.”

Nass acknowledged the existence of the investigation involving Haffner in an email he sent to employees “in the interest of transparency” and citing a May 13 PDN story disclosing the investigation, he said

“Upon its conclusion, I will let you know what, if anything, we can share at that time,” Nass said in the email, telling employees to refer all public inquiries to Nass or Clark.

Clark said in an email to all PUD employees following Haffner’s resignation notice Thursday that commissioners would announce the vacancy on the board on July 16, the day after Haffner resigns.

“I’ve had several people already inquire based on the earlier articles,” Clark said. “So far we’ve had six inquiries.

“I’m happy that people feel strongly about it.

“The only legal requirement is they reside in and are registered to vote in that district.”

The district, which does not include the city of Port Angeles, runs from the Dungeness River to the east side of Port Angeles.

Board President Ted Simpson said Friday that he expects that he and PUD Commissioner Will Purser will choose a replacement to fill out the final two years of Haffner’s six-year term by the first week of August.

Compensation for the position is up to $43,380 annually and includes 75 cents a mile for use of a personal vehicle for PUD-related business compared to the IRS rate of 54.5 cents per mile.

“It shouldn’t take us more than two or three weeks” to fill the position.

“I would think we would want to do it fairly soon.”

Simpson, who is running for re-election in the Nov. 6, said he has not been interviewed by Rubin.

Simpson learned about Rubin’s investigation following the board’s executive sessions to discuss Haffner’s resignation “after [the PDN] told me that there was an investigation and asked what was going on,” he said.

Since then, the commissioners have talked more about the investigation in executive session, Simpson said.

“I’m not aware of any kind of complaint, allegation, or, you know, written or verbal or anything,” he said Friday.

“I don’t know what Jerry is doing, specifically.”

Haffner has been “a good, consistent commissioner,” Simpson said.

“His views, which have not always been the same as mine, ended up in some good, constructive dialogue that helped us make better decisions.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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