Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Port of San Diego CEO Fired

By Mark Edward Nero

Wayne Darbeau, who had been the Port of San Diego’s CEO for almost four years, was ousted late last week following a months-long investigation into allegations that he abused his power by asking for port tenants’ help in securing a job for his son.

During a special July 25 meeting, the San Diego Board of Port Commissioners voted 6-1 to terminate the employment of Darbeau. Port Commissioner Robert Valderrama cast the sole vote against.

According to a San Diego Unified Port District statement, Darbeau has been placed on paid administrative leave through the end of this year, after which, he’ll no longer be employed by the port.

At the same time as Darbeau’s ouster, the port board appointed Harbor Police Chief John Bolduc to the role of acting port CEO until a permanent replacement for Darbeau is named. Chief Bolduc joined the Harbor Police Department in May 2010 and prior to that, served in municipal policing in Minnesota for 23 years, including about 13 years combined as police chief for the cities of Brainerd and Mora. He also served as a patrol, investigations, training and tactical operations officer in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

The port commission had been looking into Darbeau’s actions since the spring, after he emailed the president of the San Diego Port Tenants Association, asking if the group’s members could help find his son a summer job. It was later publicly revealed that Darbeau’s son and a friend of the son worked for a major port tenant, Pasha Automotive, during the summer of 2012.

After his email to the Port Tenants Association came to light, Darbeau defended his actions by saying that in reaching out to business connections, he was merely doing what many parents do to help their children find employment.

Darbeau had been with the San Diego Unified Port District since 1998 and had held key leadership positions during his tenure, including Vice President of Administration. He was appointed President/CEO of the port in December 2010, and prior to that, was acting as the port’s interim President/CEO after the previous President/CEO, Charles Wurster, abruptly resigned without explanation in September 2010.

Prior to his ouster, Darbeau was also president of the California Association of Port Authorities and sat on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Port Authorities. The AAPA has acknowledged that Darbeau is no longer on its board, while the CAPA is expected to also announce something regarding his status in the coming days.

Darbeau’s firing means that all four of California’s major ports have seen their CEOs or executive directors resign or be fired in less than two years. Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin retired under pressure following a spending scandal in November 2012; in May 2013, Port of Long Beach Executive Director Chris Lytle was hired to replace Benjamin.

In late 2013, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Geraldine Knatz retired. In June 2014, veteran shipping industry leader Gene Seroka and former FedEx exec Jon Slangerup were named as the new executive directors of the Port of LA and Port of Long Beach, respectively.