Friday, August 31, 2012

Seattle Port Commissioners Reverse Course on CEO

At least two of five Port of Seattle commissioners have now publicly reversed course on the port’s position regarding a side job CEO Tay Yoshitani has recently taken, and say he may be asked to resign.

Commission President Gael Tarleton and Commissioner Rob Holland now say they feel that Yoshitani’s acceptance of a position on the board of directors for Seattle-based global logistics company Expeditors Intl. represents a conflict of interest.

In an Aug. 29 interview with the Northwest Cable News channel Tarleton, who’s currently running for a position as a state representative, said she hopes to call a special meeting next week to address the issue, and that she would ask Yoshitani to choose one job or the other.

“This is a time when we have to decide that you can’t hold a job in the public sector and the private sector,” she said.

Holland said that although Yoshitani’s latest contract, which he signed in 2011 and pays him $367,000 annually, allows him to sit on an outside board, it was assumed that the CEO would sit on the boards of charitable organizations, and he didn’t think that Yoshitani would choose to accept a position on the board of a for-profit company.

“We’ve given him a very hefty salary,” Holland said. “A very hefty salary to keep him occupied and interested in the job here.”

He also said that he’d ask Yoshitani to choose between the two positions.

“There are five of us (commissioners), and it only takes three (to pass a majority decision),” Holland said. “I’ll be lobbying the majority of the commission to then begin the process of his removal.”

Yoshitani, who has been the port’s executive director since March 2007, was announced as the newest member of Expeditors’ board of directors Aug. 9. In the role, he stands to earn more than $230,000 in annual compensation (consisting of $30,000 in cash and up to $200,000 in restricted stock options), on top of the nearly $367,000 a year he makes with the port.

His current employment agreement with Seattle expires in June 2014.

On Aug. 24, 13 King County, Washington legislators sent a letter to the port, asking the Port of Seattle Commission to look more closely into various issues raised by Yoshitani’s acceptance of the second job, including conflict of interest.

In the letter, the lawmakers said that Yoshitani being on the board of Expeditors could result in the company’s clientele gaining a competitive advantage over non-Expeditors port customers.

However, in a position taken earlier this week, the port had said that it has carefully looked at the agreement and found that Yoshitani would not be in violation of any port rules or regulations.