A stunned Port Manager Gary Dehlinger said he was shocked by the Port of Brookings Harbor board’s decision to terminate his contract at a special meeting Friday night.
“There isn’t much I can say. I never knew this meeting was about me,” Dehlinger said. “I have nothing to hide. I would have asked for a public hearing, absolutely.”
Dehlinger was dismissed on a 4-1 vote by the commissioners. The board fired Dehlinger without notice and without citing a cause after an executive session.
Commissioner Roy Davis cast the dissenting vote.
Port attorney James Coffey, when asked about a public hearing for Dehlinger, replied, “I am only talking to you to save you time and let you know that as the port’s lawyer, I cannot discuss port business with the newspaper.”
Commissioner Jan Barbas’ motion to fire Dehlinger outlined the means for collecting port property from Dehlinger and defined port facilities Dehlinger would be forbidden to access.
The motion also instructed port staff to prepare Dehlinger’s final pay in accordance with port policy and applicable law. Dehlinger will collect six months’ pay.
After firing Dehlinger, the board voted to meet weekly until further notice. Board meetings will be held at the port office 6 p.m. Tuesdays. Commissioner Andy Martin said the change would allow the board to discuss ongoing operations in public meetings as required by state law.
Commission President Angi Christian and Barbas agreed to announce Dehlinger’s dismissal to employees Monday morning.
The board also instructed Christian to contact the Special District Association of Oregon, Coffey and Mark Freeman of the Infrastructure Finance Authority to explain the board’s decision and impacts at the port.
Commissioners Roger Thompson and Christian agreed to serve as liaisons to port staff through the transition. Christian will be available to office staff and Thompson will advise field staff.
The board also voted to invite ex-commissioner Kathy Lindley Hall to take the contract position of interim port manager.
Commissioners advised Christian to secure records, change port locks and keep all keys in her possession.
The board returned to executive session to discuss the parameters for contracting with an interim port manager.
When contacted about changes at the port, employee Skylar Windham said, “I am extremely disheartened. All of us who worked with Gary saw tons of positive change over the last year and a half.”
Windham worried things would “slip through the cracks” without a manager.
“It’s more work for all of us, but we can handle it,” he said. “Kim (Boom), Danielle (Shepard) and I will work together and collaborate on decisions. And Travis (Webster) will run the yard.”
Windham added he hates the secrecy about Dehlinger’s dismissal, and he can’t support the decision based on what little he knows.
Prior to his dismissal, Dehlinger detailed temporary repairs made to the damaged fuel dock. The ramp has been lowered and barricaded, he said. It works as a bridge for fuel and other lines but cannot be used by pedestrians.
According to Dehlinger, the port was pumping fuel as usual from the new configuration.
Port engineer Jack Akin said this was a temporary solution.
Dehlinger and the board agreed the fuel dock was a top priority, and a final solution needed to be decided quickly.
Dehlinger said the slope below the landing should be repaired first.
Barbas suggested staff research a bridge loan against future lottery funds to repair the fuel dock. Staff were also to find contractors to engineer and build the necessary structures.
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