Friday, September 14, 2012

Outside Lawyer to Review Port CEO’s Side Job

The Port of Seattle Commission has decided to hire an outside attorney to review whether or not CEO Tay Yoshitani’s acceptance of a seat on the board of a for-profit logistics company represents a conflict of interest.

During its Sept. 11 meeting, the board voted 4-0, with commissioner Bill Bryant abstaining, to have a lawyer review Yoshitani’s acceptance of a position on the board of Seattle-based Expeditors Intl. Whomever is hired would be required to report back to the board with their findings by Oct. 23.

The commissioners’ decision to have a review represented a reverse from the official position the port took last month, said that it has carefully looked at the agreement and found that Yoshitani would not be in violation of any port rules or regulations.

But the tide of opinion began to turn following receipt of a letter last month from 13 King County, Washington legislators urging the port to look more closely into various issues raised by Yoshitani’s acceptance of the second job, including the possible conflict of interest.

In the Aug. 24 letter, the lawmakers said Yoshitani serving on the Expeditors board could result in the company’s clientele gaining a competitive advantage over non-Expeditors port customers.

Yoshitani, who has been the port’s executive director since March 2007, was announced Aug. 7 as the newest member of Expeditors’ board of directors. 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 earns at the port.

Yoshitani did not appear before the commission during its Sept. 11 meeting because he was out of town, but afterward he released a prepared statement through the port.

“I have reviewed the motion and I’m prepared to fully cooperate with the review so the matter can be resolved and the port can move forward,” he said. “I believe that I have followed all the proper steps, but will accept accountability if anything I have done is contrary to any statute or applicable policy.”