The lively Port of Olympia commission discussion about transparency that began last week continued into Monday’s commission meeting.
But rather than the commission becoming testy with each other as they were on Thursday, this time they heard from several residents who were concerned about what had transpired during last week’s commission work session. Some supported Port Commissioner E.J. Zita, while others called on port Executive Director Ed Galligan to resign or be fired.
One person castigated the commission and port legal counsel for not doing more to control last week’s meeting.
Commissioner Joe Downing also made some comments during Monday’s meeting that angered the audience to the point that one person shouted in disagreement and stormed out.
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Zita argued last week that Galligan had not met his duties as executive director — as outlined by the Washington Public Ports Association — because he had not shared specific information with her regarding potential military cargo at the port. Later, port emails showed that port staff had discussed specific dates for cargo, including the third week of September.
Galligan was absent Thursday and Monday. Finance Director Jeff Smith said he is on vacation.
People spoke during public comment Monday for more than an hour.
“Once again we’re hearing reports that staff is withholding information from commissioners, and also reports of those denigrating commission members who dare to challenge the status quo,” said former Olympia Mayor Bob Jacobs. “... All are elected to do their best, and if they don’t have information from staff, they can’t do their jobs properly. ... I sure hope we’re going to see more professionalism by both staff and commissioners, starting now.”
“I support Zita’s efforts to improve port transparency and to improve internal communications between commissioners and staff,” said Bourtai Hargrove of Olympia.
Krag Unsoeld of Olympia shared his own experiences with an organization he is part of that made a recent decision to fire its executive director because that person “didn’t understand that he was responsible to the board.”
Unsoeld asked that Galligan step down, or that the commission act on its legal authority to fire him.
Richard Wolf of Olympia blasted the commission for letting last week’s conversation about Galligan happen in the first place, saying it was clearly a personnel issue that should have been handled internally.
“All three commissioners and legal counsel failed the port staff and public by not immediately tabling the discussion for a future executive session,” he said.
During commission response to those comments, Zita reiterated her position that if there is information the commission needs, Galligan should give it to them so they can use that information to make decisions as “part of our fiducial responsibility to the community.”
Downing defended Galligan, saying he was extremely supportive of the executive director. He also said that Zita’s comments about Galligan were “extremely out of line, and I hope it never happens again.”
He also angered the audience when he asked them “not to give advice about whether Ed (Galligan) stays or goes.”
That led one man in the audience to shout and then leave. “We will give you advice on whatever we need to give you advice on!” he said.
Before Monday’s meeting began, the commission found itself at odds over the agenda. Downing wanted to discuss his military cargo press release idea — in which the public would be notified in advance of a military shipment — while Zita wanted to make a statement about Thursday’s meeting. Ultimately, neither was added to the agenda.
After the meeting, Zita emailed her statement to The Olympian. It reads, in part:
“This pattern of actions behind closed doors, at an agency tasked with fiducial management of public resources, requires correction. The Washington Public Ports administration makes it clear that setting policy is the duty of port commissioners.”
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403