There’s a lot going on in Seattle. I’m not only running for State House in the 36th District, I’m the Commission President for King County’s Port of Seattle. And if you haven’t been tracking the recent issues at the port, let me catch you up. Recently, our Port CEO took a side board job with Expeditors International for up to $230,000 a year in annual compensation. This is in addition to the $367,000 he earns in his role as your Port CEO. The Port Commissioners, myself included, found out about his corporate side gig shortly before a press release was sent to the media. To be clear, I opposed the original employment contract that led to this situation and also opposed both of his salary increases each time they came up for a vote. But I was out-voted, and here we are.
If you want to help me change the way politics work in our state, I need your help. With your help, I can reach the voters. If elected, I’ll begin by changing the laws that allow high-level public officials to hold positions on private, for-profit boards. Please join my campaign today with a small donation or to sign up as a volunteer.
Justifiably, thirteen state legislators recently penned a letter to the Port citing their own concerns about this corporate board membership because of the appearance of conflict of interest. You see, Expeditors has business before the Port. It stands to argue that sitting on the board of a for-profit, corporate board, while also serving as the Port CEO, might be perceived as favoritism. These legislators are right to share their concerns and I agree wholeheartedly with them.
In response to my call for the CEO to choose between the job at the port or a seat on the board, the Seattle Times editorial said: “Tarleton opposed the [CEO] Yoshitani hiring agreement, but it was approved by the board. As president, she should abide by it.”
I respectfully disagree. I can’t abide the status quo and neither will the public. Their tax dollars are at stake. They need to be able to trust their public institutions. And I am not confident that there is no conflict of interest – the public deserves to have this determined by an independent outside counsel and auditor. I am not satisfied with the opinion of the port’s internal general counsel alone. I appreciate having the backing from Washington’s Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, who sent the commission a letter yesterday calling for more transparency to this issue.
Your support today will help me get my message to the voters: that I won’t abide the status quo when we need to change it.
The Port has significant challenges related to our airport and seaport.The CEO’s actions have created an enormous distraction from the work we need to be doing to keep creating jobs and competing for trade while dealing with a proposed arena in industrial lands. The CEO could easily resolve this situation by stepping down from the board, removing the appearance of the conflict of interest and continuing his work at the Port. But he refuses. Now, he has even gone so far as to say we should buy him out with a severance package. Let me be crystal clear: over my dead body will I ever support a severance package for someone earning over $360,000 in a recovering economy. I will do everything in my legal power to prevent a repeat of the situation a former commission faced with the previous Port CEO Mic Dinsmore in 2007, the year I beat a two-term incumbent commissioner.
At the Port Commission’s upcoming September 11th meeting, I will address these concerns from our state legislators and House Speaker and call for both independent counsel and outside auditors to review the CEO’s employment contract to help us determine the next steps we can legally take. I appreciate all of the public outpouring of support. Please keep in touch as I prepare for next Tuesday’s meeting.