Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Port of Port Angeles Commission
Removes Board President

The controversy surrounding the resignation of former Port of Port Angeles Executive Director Jeff Robb has claimed another victim: port board member Jim Hallett, who has been removed from his position as Board of Commissioners president.

All three members of the board, including Paul McHugh and John Calhoun, voted Aug. 26 to remove Hallett as board president in the wake of a rift between board members that opened as a result of the situation surrounding Robb who, citing what he called “serious health issues,” resigned as executive director of the Port of Port Angeles in June.

He was immediately hired by the port commission at the same salary to fill a newly created job, environmental affairs director, but the vote was 2-1, with Hallett against. Hallett later said he was unhappy with the way the situation was handled and that other candidates should have been interviewed for the previously unannounced position.

Commissioner Calhoun later revealed that Robb was given the job because the port feared the potential of a lawsuit over a dysfunctional relationship between Robb and senior staff members.

The handling of Robb’s resignation and immediate rehiring has drawn the ire of local, regional and state watchdog groups, including the Washington Coalition for Open Government, which on July 22 sent the commission a letter chastising it for its actions and petitioning for the removal of Robb from the environmental affairs director post.

At the Aug. 26 meeting, Hallett’s board colleagues said his stance on the controversy had compromised his effectiveness.

“I am concerned whether you, now, as chairman of the commission, are as effective as we would like because of all the fallout from all this issue,” Calhoun said to Hallett.

Ultimately, both Hallett and McHugh agreed with the assessment and Hallett yielded his seat as president to Calhoun. “I suppose I could say I'm relieved,” Hallett said, “but that wouldn't be a true statement.”

Calhoun is expected to remain board president until after the Nov. 5 elections, where a successor to McHugh’s seat will be voted in. McHugh was eliminated in the primaries; Port of Port Angeles employee Colleen McAleer and event-services company owner Del DelaBarre will face off in the election.