Friday, April 6, 2012

Port of Bellingham Director Resigns

Port of Bellingham director Charlie Sheldon announced April 3 that he was stepping down from the job effective at the end of the month. His resignation comes six months after a port commissioner had called for his ouster.

Sheldon, who had only been on the job 18 months, had been asked to resign last October in a motion by port commissioner Scott Walker, who was upset that Sheldon had authorized the port’s aviation director to take a trip to a conference in the Caribbean without informing the board first. Although the board voted 2-1 against Walker’s motion at the time, the damage had been done, and Walker and Sheldon’s professional relationship deteriorated in subsequent months.

After submitting his resignation, two of the three port commissioners – Walker and Jim Jorgensen -- voted to accept it and a separation agreement that includes five months’ severance pay.

Before the vote, numerous port stakeholders, including commercial fishermen, labor activists, former Mayor Dan Pike and the CEO of Bellingham Cold Storage, Doug Thomas, all voiced their support for Sheldon and urged the board not to accept the resignation, saying that Sheldon had done a fine job and deserved a second chance.

Thomas, in particular said that in his 14 years running his cold storage business, his working relationship with port staff reached a peak during Sheldon’s 18-month tenure.

In the end however, port commissioner Mike McAuley was the lone vote against accepting the resignation.

During the meeting, the commission also appointed Chief Financial Officer Rob Fix to the position of interim executive director, which he will hold while a search for a permanent director is ongoing.