By Boyd C. Allen

Port of Brookings Harbor commissioners are asking the sheriff and district attorney to investigate suspected irregularities in an emergency construction contract and to file a report with the Oregon State Department of Justice.

Two former officials connected to the contract, however, deny there were any irregularities.

Commissioner Jan Barbas made the motion at a special meeting Wednesday to investigate after finding a signed port resolution — number 447 — in port records. Barbas said there is no evidence of a vote on the resolution in minutes, agendas or audio recordings.

The resolution, signed Jan. 25, 2016, ratifies and executes an emergency contract with Dave Hoover Construction to repair an existing dilapidated receiving dock, upgrade infrastructure serving the commercial seafood industry and procure materials to meet schedule goals.

The dock to be repaired was the port-owned dock adjacent to and leased to BC Fisheries.

The signatures of Roy Davis, board chair at the time, and Ted Fitzgerald, port manager at the time, appear on the resolution.

Contacted about the motion Davis said, “Rules and procedures were followed according to the port’s emergency procurements. I would have to go back and dig up a little more information before I make further statements.”

Fitzgerald said, “all of the actions regarding that contract were made in accordance with normal port procedures.”

He also said he found the board’s actions problematic because to his understanding, port staff were surprised by the motion in a public meeting and were not given time to research the resolution.

“It all looks more like a political stunt to me,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald also said current Port Manager Gary Dehlinger created the resolution and did the research to ensure proper procedures were followed.

Fitzgerald added, “It is my understanding that Port Counsel Jim Coffey reviewed everything, reviewed the packet, before it went to the IFA.”

Attempts to reach Coffey for comment were not successful.

Dehlinger backed Fitzgerald’s assertion, saying, “All of this had to be produced to the IFA in order to get the bridge loan, and the IFA had to approve all the documents before approving the loan. And it was approved, and it was reviewed by the port counsel before it went to the IFA.”

The Infrastructure Finance Authority approved a $1.5 million bridge loan for the project. The bridge loan will be repaid by money set aside by the legislature in HB 5030 as a grant from lottery funds supplied by Business Oregon.

Dehlinger also provided the Pilot with Port of Brookings Harbor Resolution 368, “a resolution of the board of commissioners adopting public contracting rules and prescribing rules and procedures for public contracting.”

Exhibit A, Page 4, section 7 of that document states, “(1) Emergency shall be defined as follows: circumstances that (a) could not have been reasonably foreseen; (b) create a substantial risk of loss, damage, or interruption of services or a substantial threat to property, public health, welfare or safety and (c) require prompt execution of a contract to remedy the condition.”

Resolution 368 also states, “The Board Chair, the Port Manager, or a designee of the Port Manager shall have the authority to determine when emergency conditions exist sufficient to warrant an emergency contract. The nature of the emergency and the method used for the selection of the contractor shall be documented.”

Dehlinger said he was putting together a packet of materials, including these resolutions, to be reviewed by the port’s attorney to see if anything was done improperly.

According to Curry County District Attorney Everett Dial, he and Sheriff John Ward had been contacted by the board, but no investigation is under way at this time, and it is too early to make any determination of wrong doing.

Barbas emphasized the importance of his motion. “We are spending $1.5 million of public funds, and we can’t see where we made this emergency declaration or voted to spend that money.”

Also the board voted to direct port employees to cooperate with any investigation and sign off on any required complaints made by Ward, the DA or the DOJ.

The last motion of the night directed staff to review records, correct resolution numbers and make sure all have been approved by votes. Any errors would be brought before the board for approval and corrections.

The motion carried.

In other news

•After a full reading of the port draft audit for Fiscal Year 2106-17, the board tabled its approval until a special meeting Friday night. According to Board President Angi Christian, minor corrections and amendments need to be made before then so the final document can be reviewed by the commissioners.

•Auditor Signe Grimstad complimented the board and Dehlinger on their cooperation and transparency. She stated it was a clean audit and illustrated marked progress for the port’s finances.

•Andy Martin expressed concern about the closed fuel dock and the need for fuel during the approaching crab season. The board agreed to have Dehlinger empty the lines and attempt to use the aluminum ramp as a bridge for the lines to reach the transient and fuel docks. This temporary fix will allow the lines to be used while providing time to engineer a permanent solution. The lines carry water, sewage, electricity and fuel.

•Port commissioners agreed to extend an invitation to bid for boarding dock fabrication and installation. The approved document details specifications for contractors and fabricators interested in bidding.

•The board also voted to renew a public recreation facility lease for the fishing pier and viewing area. The 15-year lease with the State of Oregon Department of State Lands allows the port to continue using these areas built on the left bank of the Chetco River.

•The board extended a perpetual easement to Harbor Sanitary District for construction, laying, installation, inspection, maintenance, repair, replacement and removal of sanitary sewer main transmission lines. The lines are under property owned by the port.

Reach Boyd C. Allen at ballen@currypilot.com .

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