The Olympia Port Commission has given its former executive leader Ed Galligan a generous parachute after his ouster last week from a position he held more than 12 years.
Galligan receives $75,000, and his settlement agreement says he resigned effective May 31.
At this point – after the port commission’s statement it wants to go in a new direction – his departure can only be a good thing that limits distractions for the agency.
There is work to do in making Olympia’s complex port operation function more profitably, and the commissioners' prolonged evaluation of Galligan's status has been on their agenda since early this year.
The payment of roughly a half-year’s salary, and the promise of $75 an hour for his future time, does sound like a better deal for Galligan than hourly workers would ever receive.
But Galligan held an executive role, and the agreement ensures that he will cooperate if and when his expertise or institutional knowledge are needed going forward.
In the meantime, as the three-member port commission begins its process to hire a permanent executive leader, we encourage the taxpayer-subsidized agency to throw open its doors to a broader community discussion of where the port ought to go.
That kind of discussion seems like a perpetual activity in some respects. Our community has long been divided on the future of a marine terminal, the types of cargoes shipped, the ongoing environmental cleanups paid in part by local taxpayers and other issues.
But all of the commissioners, now led by chair EJ Zita, have stated before they want the marine terminal to continue operating despite its ongoing losses.
Zita noted last year during her re-election campaign that shutting it down would be impossible given the port’s future financial obligations there. That remains a prudent stance.
However, the port needs to be more accountable – with its accounting – going forward.
And it should work to establish even greater transparency so the public understands what is being done on the Budd Inlet waterfront, the airport in Tumwater or with warehouses it leases for profit in Lacey and Tumwater.
There is nothing wrong with a tax subsidy if the public understands what it is for. The key is that it is explained and justified in a way that is equated with measurable results.