Port of Brookings Harbor commissioners voted 3-2 to terminate Gary Dehlinger’s employment in a special meeting Monday night.
After Dehlinger responded to charges put forth by a board subcommittee, President Angi Christian and Vice President Jan Barbas said they still had trust issues with Dehlinger and voted to fire him.
Commissioner Roger Thompson sided with Barbas and Christian and said he agreed with their concerns and added Dehlinger liked to work from his own ideas and not take ideas from the board.
“He was a control freak to me and to the people in the office,” Thompson said.
Port employee Brent Ferguson told the Pilot Wednesday, “When Thompson indicated Gary was overly-demanding of staff, there is no one at the port who would corroborate that.”
Ferguson said he had never seen that behavior in Dehlinger and said, “Gary was the best manager I ever worked under and the fairest, and he always got the best out of his subordinates.”
Asked for a response, port Office Manager Skylar Windham referred to a post on Facebook in which he said, “accusing Gary Dehlinger of being a ‘control freak’ was unfair and absolutely untrue. Gary was a decent and respectful manager. I don’t feel there is a single staff member who would support Thompson’s claim.”
Commissioner Roy Davis sided with Dehlinger throughout the hearing, often asking leading questions to help Dehlinger support his cause.
“Did you get a review from the board? Davis asked.
Dehlinger said he had but was hesitant to go on, only mentioning it was positive and contained no negative comments.
Davis then asked, “Did you get a raise?”
Dehlinger nodded and said, “Yes I did.”
Davis also pointedly asked Dehlinger if he was aware the Jan. 5 executive session –– after which he was asked to resign and then fired –– was about him.
Dehlinger responded, “Absolutely not.”
“I did not know either,” Davis said.
Commissioner Andy Martin remained quiet for most of the meeting, reading his notes and listening to comments from both sides. In the end, he sided with Davis and voted “no” on the motion to fire.
Prior to the vote, Dehlinger responded to board accusations sent in a letter sent from Port Counsel James Coffey to his lawyer, Loren Collins.
Collins, opening for Dehlinger, said Dehlinger adamantly denied the assertion that he cannot be trusted and adamantly denied the idea he had ever acted in any way other than in the best interest of the port.
Dehlinger began by saying he was completely surprised by the firing because he had no idea the board had any concerns.
The board’s accusations revolved around Port Resolution 446-7 and Dehlinger’s handling of the subsequent investigation. Resolution 446-7 established an emergency contract between the port and Hoover Contracting for the rehabilitation of the BC Fisheries Dock.
Dehlinger said he was accused of claiming Coffey had reviewed the Hoover contract in an article in the Pilot, and admitted he misspoke. But added, he was referring to the packet concerning the dock the port sent to the Infrastructure Finance Authority. Coffey said he had reviewed the packet, but the Hoover contract was not included.
Dehlinger said he told Christian about his role in preparing Resolution 446-7 when she inquired about it in her store and also said that, until Dec. 27, when an item about the resolution was added to the meeting agenda, he felt the concerns about the BC Fisheries dock had to do with engineering and construction.
He said he had communicated to the board about port staff not having sufficient time to research all documents related to the resolution and the Hoover contract and produced an email stating those concerns.
Dehlinger claimed he had been transparent with the press as he had been trained and produced Resolution 368, “Rules for Public Contracting,” for the Pilot in order to be open and said commissioners should have been familiar with the resolution because it was in a packet from an earlier meeting.
He responded to accusations he had refused to send documents related to Resolution 446-7 to the district attorney (DA) and sheriff by stating, “I wanted to run the packet by legal counsel and the full commission before I sent out port documents.”
Dehlinger said he was acting to protect the port and had sent an email to counsel and the commission explaining his actions.
He also went through his employment history to show he had not worked for the port and BC Fisheries at the same time and explained he had hired his wife’s aunt because she was qualified, and it had been cleared by then board president Roy Davis.
Collins closed saying, “Nothing that was raised here, certainly in light of Gary’s comments and explanations, comes even close to justify his termination.”
There was only one reasonable decision, according to Collins, and that was to put Dehlinger back to work at the port.
Davis made a motion to return Dehlinger to his job without alterations to his contract or restrictions, but no one seconded the motion.
“Motion dies,” Christian said.
Thompson then made a motion to fire Dehlinger, and Christian seconded the motion.
In the following discussion, Christian scolded audience members as many applauded Dehlinger’s and Davis’ remarks and derided the other board member’s comments.
Barbas and Christian indicated that even though Dehlinger had prepared a packet for the DA, he had answered a question from the DA in a manner they thought was insubordinate.
Barbas, talking as he went through Dehlinger’s responses, often mumbled and was called on by the audience to speak up.
Barbas felt the reference to Resolution 368 was made in a different context when it appeared in a meeting packet and accused Dehlinger of a “bait and switch.”
Christian and Barbas noted taking the packet on Resolution 446-7 to the port counsel or presenting it to the full board was not what the board had instructed. Christian added the packet was not completed.
Collins read an email countering her claim.
They both concluded that for those and other reasons they felt they could no longer trust Dehlinger and no longer had confidence in him.
After the vote was called, and Dehlinger fired, Christian immediately adjourned the meeting while members of the audience chanted. “Recall, recall, recall.”
After the meeting, Dehlinger and Collins chose not to comment, although Dehlinger did say, “This was just the first step.”
Reach Boyd C. Allen at email@example.com .