Brookings port board commissioner resigns post

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer July 04, 2012 10:34 am

Kathy Lindley Hall
Port of Brookings Harbor Commissioner Kathy Lindley Hall tendered her resignation over the weekend.

Her short letter read, “After many hours of prayerful reflection, I find I can no longer sit as a Port Commissioner,” and stated it was effective immediately.

“I weighed my options and decided resignation was best for me,” she said Tuesday.

When she was pressed further, she declined comment.

Lindley Hall was elected to the commission in 2005 and again in 2009; her term ends next year.

The board will likely try to appoint someone to fill her seat, said Commissioner Jim Relaford.

“Not many people want to take the heat for no money,” he said with a laugh. “When you’re on the port commission, you’re always a target.

“There are so many good people out here. But it’s a large responsibility.”

Other commissioners include Sue Gold, Ted Freeman and Roy Davis. Davis couldn’t be reached for comment.

“It’s a sad day,” Freeman said. “She did a very good job representing the port. She was the most knowledgeable person on our commission about the port.”

Relaford, Gold and Lindley Hall all saw the port through years of difficult times.

“We were totally in debt,” Freeman said. “The first three or four years were tough, real helter-skelter. It was like putting us out there on the firing line.”

Internal operations challenges didn’t include the devastation last year’s tsunami flung their way.

Under the port commission’s direction, the port is recovering from the storm and starting to make money again.

Relaford said he didn’t know why Lindley Hall resigned, saying it was possible that a contentious discussion at last week’s meeting could have been a deciding factor.

“It was a pretty rough meeting,” he said. “But I really don’t know.”

Lindley Hall asked pointed questions of Port Manager Ted Fitzgerald throughout last Tuesday’s meeting, which was followed by an executive session.

Heated discussion continued in that session, which the agenda indicated was held to evaluate the “employment-related performance of the chief executive officer.”

No decisions can be made during executive session, and the regular meeting was closed after the session ended.

Overall, Lindley Hall has glowing accolades for Fitzgerald.

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“I’m very pleased with what Ted is doing; he’s done a marvelous job,” she said. “For someone to have stepped in and cleaned up our finances ... and the state was pleased to finally have someone to stick and stay.

“At times it was painful, overwhelming, our debt ... we weren’t in a position to address our debt. Everything he did with the tsunami ... I can’t think of anyone who could have done a finer job than he did.”

But discussion during the last week’s public meeting focused around port operations, some of which Lindley Hall said were conducted without consulting the port board and that those decisions went against port policy.

Lindley Hall admits she’s one to follow the rules – dot all the ‘i’s and cross all the ‘t’s.

“I have this idea in my mind that things are done according to Hoyle,” she said last week. “No one is compromised, everything is open and aboveboard. I have to obey the laws for bids, contracts. The port has to comply with ORS (Oregon Revised Statute) also. That is the kind of person I am.”

Last year, she made it clear she was not pleased with a website contract Fitzgerald set up between the port and Relaford, who runs a computer and technology company. Lindley Hall said that deal should have gone out to bid.

Fitzgerald believes it’s within his discretion to make such decisions, as they are separate from the duty of port commissioners, which is to make and guide policy.

Lindley Hall also wanted Fitzgerald to explain why constituents have the perception the port is entering the salvage and recycling business. At issue is a boat named the Henrietta that the port plans to salvage once the owner signs over the title.

Fitzgerald said the port has always been in the salvage operations business.

“We want to have an assortment of things the commercial fishermen can use so they can get back out on the water, and make sure the money goes to the port,” he said. “Seems like a good idea to me.”

Lindley Hall also requested he outline details of port projects completed in the past quarter, and asked why he allowed three businesses to move into the commercial core before their leases were approved by the port.

Rentals within the commercial area are cursorily reviewed by the board; Fitzgerald said he wouldn’t lease space to anyone who would expose the port to problems.

He also said such detailed discussion in a port meeting was making him feel uncomfortable; Relaford agreed.

“If we don’t have confidence in our executive director to have the discretion to make decisions, we have a bigger problem,” he said during the meeting. “If we have to second-guess every decision he makes, these are going to be very long meetings.”

 “I can understand her frustrations,” Freeman said. “If you want to make a difference, you have to be there to help direct it. With her not being there, she won’t have the same impact.”

“I think she has been out there and done an honest job,” said Gold. “She’s always tried to keep things on the up-and-up.”