Ferguson v. Port of Olympia, Part I

What is going on at the Port of Olympia?

proppant ship

The Daily Olympian carried a story on May 21, 2013 about a lawsuit filed by the Port's former finance director, Kevin Ferguson, against the Port and the Port's Exec Director, Edward Galligan.

Among other things, Ferguson's lawsuit alleges that the Port's contract for IT services is not quite right.

That's an interesting allegation and one that might be easy to sort out.

Here are specific passages and allegations from the Ferguson lawsuit:

  • "In approximately January, 2011, Galligan directed plaintiff (Ferguson) to write a leter or recommendation to the Port Commissioners in support of a pay raise for Galligan. Although he was not comfortable with this directive, plaintiff was compelled to follow Galligan's instruction. Plaintiff wrote the letter, but only after informing two commissioners in advance as to the directive he had been given."

A little bit of context for this bit: Galligan was Ferguson's direct supervisor at the time and the commissioners are charged with supervising the executive director. Is there a cause of action here? Probably not, but I think lots of us understand that this type of request from a direct supervisor would feel coercive and manipulative.

  • "Throughout plaintiff's employment he observed and discovered a variety of matters which adversely impacted the financial status of the Port and which he reasonabley believed to constitute mismanagement, waste or violations of law... Many of the items plaintiff was discovering and observing included acts or omissions by the office of the Executive Director, Galligan."

A little bit of context for this item: The Port belongs to all of us. The Port holds title to property with a value in the range of 300 million dollars. The management of these holdings require that the tax payers of Thurston County ante up 4.8 million dollars per year to keep the Port afloat.  These simple facts do raise questions about the financial management at the Port. Couldn't we simply hire a property management firm and get a better return on investment? Maybe a a simple property management company could at least run this property to break even? 

The Port likes to tout its role in job creation, but I think a hard look at the jobs that would actually disappear if the port property was operated by a property management firm instead of a quasi-public agency would reveal that the public is buying very few good local jobs with the investment of 4.8 million per year. The Port likes to talk as if it's a private business, but if it was a private business, it would be out of business. 

That's enough for today, back in a few days with more from the Port on questions about the IT contract and the Port's environmental record.