Field of Interim Port of Port Angeles Executive Director Candidates Narrowed to Four; Identities Secret

By Paul Gottlieb, June 8, 2013, Peninsula Daily News

Four interim executive director candidates were placed by Port of Port Angeles commissioners on a short list of applicants to take the place of Jeff Robb, who resigned June 24 to take a lower-level position of port director of environmental affairs at the same $138,000 annual salary.

As Robb started his new job Monday in his old office at the port administrative building downtown — though he also will be allowed to work from home — port commissioners announced a closed-door executive session to review the qualifications of six potential applicants, two of whom were local, to succeed him a temporary basis.

Thirty minutes later, they voted unanimously to have board President Jim Hallett contact the four finalists, whom they did not identify, for interviews that also will occur in executive session.

In separate interviews, neither Hallett nor port Commissioner John Calhoun would say whether any of the four are local.

Commissioner Paul McHugh said in a later interview that all of four candidates are men.

Having a temporary executive director on board in two to four weeks is “a reasonable time frame” given that commissioners and candidates must coordinate their calendars, Hallett said.

Calhoun said during the port’s regular meeting that he s “somewhat disappointed” that commissioners had taken two weeks between Robb’s resignation and Monday’s meeting to reach the decision they made.

“I urge us to take it up today to see if we can make progress on selecting a person to negotiate for this position,” he said.

“Apparently, there’s a frontrunner who would like to enter into the discussion.”

Commissioners also unanimously agreed to release the text of a whistle-blower complaint and a report on that complaint to Peninsula Daily News, which the newspaper had requested June 26 under a state Public Records Act request.

Until Monday, the request had been refused.

Port attorney Dave Neupert of Port Angeles said there was more than one public records request for the information, which he said will now be released by Friday.

The documents must have some information redacted “in compliance with port internal policies regarding allegations of improper government conduct,” Neupert said before commissioners went into executive session to review the job candidates.

Commissioners also voted unanimously to hire the Seattle executive search firm Waldron to find candidates for the permanent executive director position, which provided the names of two of the six original candidates.

Hallett said some of the interviews might occur via Skype, an Internet telephone application that has video options.

Hallett, Calhoun and McHugh said in separate interviews that it might not be until January that a permanent director will be hired under a maximum $45,000 contract with Waldron, which also will charge a fee if the commissioners hire an applicant offered by the company.

Calhoun said he wants the interviews to be held by Friday in a special meeting at which an executive session would be closed to the public — and wants the commissioners if possible to make a decision that same day.

McHugh said he was optimistic that a decision would take no more than two weeks, while Hallett predicted it would take two to four weeks.

Some of Monday’s meeting was taken up by the commissioners approving items that normally would be approved by an executive director.

A salary has not been determined for the interim director.

The state Auditor’s Office said last week that it will begin an audit by September instead of in 2014 to examine more closely the circumstances surrounding the commission’s actions awarding the contract and if they comply with port, state and federal regulations, including those related to open public meetings.

Robb, 59, who had received a 12 percent salary increase in January, announced June 24 that he will resign in July 2014.

That will allow him to qualify for state retirement benefits as a public employee for 30 years — almost all at the port — and being 60 years old.

Calhoun said in an earlier interview that commissioners awarded Robb the contract 2-1 June 24 under a fear of litigation.

Hallett’s was the lone dissenting vote.

The environmental services director job was not advertised or budgeted, and Robb can be fired only for cause, or malfeasance.

He also is being paid 64 percent more than the port’s next-highest-paid department head, Finance Director Karen Goschen, and no longer has supervisory responsibility over any other port employees, including port Environmental Specialist Jesse Waknitz.

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