PUD seeks Haffner replacement

Hugh Haffner

Hugh Haffner

PORT ANGELES — A replacement is being sought for former longtime Clallam County Public Utility District Commissioner Hugh Haffner, whose resignation, effective Sunday, was under investigation until the lawyer reviewing the PUD commissioner’s departure dropped it.

Lawyer Jerry Rubin of the Seattle law firm William Kastner said this week his investigation cost $39,877, based on a discounted rate for government entities of under $500 an hour.

Rubin ended it before it was completed because Haffner had resigned, Rubin said.

PUD Commissioner and board President Ted Simpson, who is running for re-election to a six-year term in the Nov. 6 general election, and Commissioner Will Purser will choose a successor by mid-October to fill the two years of Haffner’s unexpired six-year term.

Simpson said they must choose a successor within 90 days.

Applications are due by July 31.

Simpson said Monday that commissioners would begin considering a replacement by mid-August for the position, which pays a maximum compensation of $48,724 annually and 75-cents-a-mile mileage.

Haffner, 71, told Peninsula Daily News on May 3 he would resign in July, before a May 10 stroke incapacitated him.

He submitted his resignation June 7, effective Sunday, saying it was no longer possible for him to fulfill his duties.

Haffner’s wife, Dianne, said Monday he was resting at home.

“He has some good days and some not-so-good days,” she said.

Dianne Haffner said about four people had called her husband to ask him about the position but she did not know their names.

Her husband was left with the impression that that the people who talked to him “don’t really understand the responsibilities of the commissioners,” Dianne Haffner said.

Seattle lawyer Jerry Rubin had said in an earlier interview that he was dropping the complaint because Haffner had resigned due to medical issues.

“The issue is moot,” Rubin said Monday.

He consulted with PUD General Manager Doug Nass on his decision, Rubin said.

“In consultation with the client, I said I don’t think it’s worth your spending any more money because [Haffner] resigned the position.”

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.”

PUD Public Records Officer Carla Field denied a May 8 Peninsula Daily News request for public information about complaints against Haffner and corrective action taken against Haffner for the past five years “due to an active personnel investigation.”

Field said July 11 that no complaints had been filed against Haffner for the past five years other than a recent complaint that Rubin described Monday in an email to the PDN.

Rubin said the complaint was made by a female PUD employee in the form of an email on her PUD email account.

Her name and the name of the recipient were redacted.

“Hugh stopped by my desk to visit for about 10 minutes today,” she said in the email. “He stroked my back several times and put his hand through my hair three times.

“I did not tell him to stop because I was stunned honestly.

“I emailed this information to [a PUD manager] and [a PUD manager] and asked to speak to them later.

“I am leaving work now.”

Haffner said May 3 that there were no complaints against him.

“I’m just getting tired of it,” he said then about why he was quitting his position.

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

Haffner said he was still hurting from 2013 car crash injuries and was unable to drive.

Haffner before Rubin’s law firm “could render a final legal opinion,” Rubin said Monday in his email.

“Moreover, it would be a waste of public funds to complete an investigation that is no longer necessary.”

Rubin said Monday in the interview that Haffner and the female employee were interviewed for the investigation.

“Although the investigation has been terminated, it remains privileged under a variety of legal principles including the attorney/client and work product doctrines,” he said in the email.

Simpson would not comment on the complaint Monday.

He said he did not have much information on Rubin’s investigation.

“I don’t have any idea what he found, what his conclusions were,” Simpson said.

Haffner was appointed to a two-year term in 1994, ran unopposed in 1996, defeated opponents in 2002 and 2008, and ran unopposed in 2014.

“This is a poor way to end your career, to have to resign,” Simpson said. “I feel sorry for the guy.”

Simpson said he had not called Haffner since his stroke more than two months ago.

“I don’t know his physical condition,” Simpson said.

“I don’t know what his limitations are.”

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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