By Paul Gottlieb, January 13, 2014, Peninsula Daily News
Jim Hallett re-assumed leadership of the Port of Port Angeles board of commissioners Monday, four months after he was booted from the board presidency.
Former board President John Calhoun and former port Director of Business Development and new Commissioner Colleen McAleer, who nominated Hallett, voted for the financial advisor to become board president.
McAleer, who won election to the Sequim-area Position 1 seat in November, also was sworn into office Monday as the port’s first female commissioner in the tax district’s 90-year history.
“I’m really excited about moving forward,” she said.
After being administered the oath of office by port attorney Simon Barnhart, McAleer addressed the commission and about 35 onlookers and spoke of the port charter’s mandate to support prosperity.
“I’m really looking forward to fulfilling that obligation to our citizens who are unemployed and underemployed and are having a hard time making ends meet,” she said.
She then assumed the seat that had been held by Paul McHugh, who did not advance past the Aug. 6 primary but three weeks later led the successful effort to depose Hallett.
“That was then, this is now,” Hallett said in a later interview. “It’s a new commission and a new day.
“We’re not going back.”
McHugh had accused Hallett of “proceeding with your own agenda” over lease-related whistle-blower allegations McAleer made against former Executive Director Jeff Robb last May.
Robb resigned in June and immediately was rehired as the port’s director of environmental affairs at the same $138,000-a-year salary. Robb is retiring in July.
Port Angeles lawyer Donna Knifsend investigated McAleer’s whistle-blower allegations, concluding that there were no violations of state law.
But the state Auditor’s Office, prompted by citizen concerns over the allegations, conducted an early audit of port finances, including leases.
The audit was completed Dec. 9, but a report has not been issued, Auditor’s Office spokesman Thomas Shapley said Monday.
Commissioners also agreed Monday to ramp up the process of hiring a new permanent executive director to fill a position now held by interim Executive Director Ken O’Hollaren.
Commissioners had agreed to begin the hiring process after the election.
The Seattle executive search firm Waldron, which had offered O’Hollaren as a candidate for the interim position, also has been hired under a maximum $45,000 contract to find a suitable applicant for the permanent position.
The company also will charge a fee if commissioners hire an applicant put forward by the company.
“I am anxious to move forward so the staff and the commissioners and the public have stability,” Calhoun said.
McAleer and Hallett agreed that the hiring process should move forward.
Hallett said in a later interview that the commissioners might discuss the skill-set they want from a permanent executive director in public session at their next regular meeting Jan. 27.
Hallett said the hiring of a new executive director “could be soon, depending on what we see and what Waldron sees might be available.”
The historic nature of McAleer’s election was noted by Lower Elwha Klallam tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles and Boat Haven tenant Penney Sanders, a frequent speaker a port meetings.
“It’s nice to not say, ‘Good morning, gentlemen,’” Sanders quipped. “I’m delighted to see a woman on the port commission.”
Port commissioners presented Charles with a framed aerial photo of Ediz Hook.
“What you are looking at is a lot of our ancestral ground,” she said, cradling the gift.
“We are humbled and honored to have the photo and have something to put in our offices to share.”
She also praised McAleer for reaching out to the tribe when McAleer worked for the port as property manager and director of business development.
“Women in power, that’s important,” Charles said.
Commissioners said they intend to fill a full-time business development director position, and O’Hollaren already has hired former Sequim real estate agent Tanya Kerr to be the port’s full-time property manager.
McAleer suggested the port commission hold “five or six” public workshops over the next few months to discuss items such port policies on delegation of authority, communication with the public and an existing economic impact study.
Commissioners would not take final action at the workshops.
She also suggested that port commission meeting days be changed from the second and fourth Monday of the month to the second and fourth Tuesday to allow the staff to better prepare commission reports and allow more consultation with the executive director for the regular meeting.
A change in meeting dates would require a change in the port’s bylaws.