In a letter dated July 18, Port of Brookings Harbor Attorney Martha Rice called on BC Fisheries Manager Mike Manning to “Cease and Desist from delaying or interfering with the completion of the commercial receiving dock renovation project.”
The letter goes on to “demand” the end of interference and states the work must be completed by July 31 or the port could “lose out on $41,000” from the Infrastructure Finance Authority (IFA).
Rice concludes by threatening BC Fisheries with liability for “any and all economic damage suffered by the port, including but not limited to the $41,000 it may lose from the IFA.”
The port demanded three days to complete the work.
According to Dave Hoover, the contractor on the dock, sealing the dock with an epoxy is the final step in completing the dock, and the epoxy needs time to set.
The previous board raised multiple issues regarding the BC Fisheries dock, at first questioning the legitimacy of the construction contract itself and then appointing a subcommittee to examine possible shortcomings in its construction.
The previous board also voted to have the sheriff and district attorney investigate the emergency contract for the dock to see if it had been improperly executed outside of a public meeting and without a board vote.
To date, nothing has come of the contract issue, and the subcommittee disbanded having found no problems with the dock, according to a report given at a previous meeting by former commissioner Jan Barbas.
In a response to Rice and the port’s letter, BC Fisheries Attorney Ted Fitzgerald said the port’s current manager, Kathy Lindley Hall, has a long history of working in the fish-processing industry and knows a plant needs time to “wind down its activities.”
The two additional days needed to stop operations, according to Fitzgerald, would force a shutdown for five days, and a shutdown in the most productive portion of the pink shrimp season would result in severe economic damage to his client.
Fitzgerald said, “The language of the demand is inadequate to justify my advising my client to close a facility that, when running, produces a gross revenue of approximately $100,000 a day.”
He noted in a letter he sent the next day that it had been more than 24 hours since he requested documents reviewed by the port before they sent the cease and desist order, and said he had not been contacted by Rice or any representative of the port.
Conflict of interest
Fitzgerald said it concerns him Hall is “wearing two hats” and is damaging a relationship with a port tenant who is in direct competition with her other employer, the Oregon Trawl Commission (OTC).
“The only parties who could benefit from an interruption in BC Fisheries’ business are BC Fisheries’ competitors, many of whom are active members of the OTC, and Kathy Lindley-Hall works for the OTC,” Fitzgerald said. “That is a conflict in this situation. Ms. Lindley-Hall needs to not insert herself into issues like the BC dock where she has displayed an obvious conflict of interest at odds with what is beneficial to the port and the community. The port appointed a separate liaison to avoid what has happened here.”
Fitzgerald said he was referring to an earlier arrangement made by a previous board wherein Harbormaster Travis Webster served as a liaison between the port and BC Fisheries because BC Fisheries would not work with Hall.
Webster said he has been the point of contact for Dave Gowers and Hoover, the engineer and contractor on the dock, since Gary Dehlinger was fired.
“With BC Fisheries, I am the harbormaster, and their operations are on port ground,” he said, “so I am a contact for BC Fisheries in regards to the property and dock.”
Whether this arrangement in part or whole resulted from Hall being hired as interim manager could not be confirmed through port staff.
When asked about the dock or the possibility of a conflict of interest, Rice said, “I am not interested in conducting business via newspaper.”
Hall, when asked to respond to comments made by Fitzgerald or correspondences he provided, said, “That’s the end of our conversation,” and hung up.
Hoover said he hadn’t said anything to anyone about a deadline but had discussed, with Webster and BC Fisheries Manager Mike Manning, getting a three-day window to seal and finish the dock while the weather remained warm and dry.
No one mentioned a deadline in those conversations, according to Hoover.
“I haven’t said anything to anyone,” he said. “I don’t want to get caught up in the rumors. I am glad we have a meeting on Monday so we can get this done; the sooner the better.”
Manning did not reply to Pilot requests for comment.
Correspondences provided by Fitzgerald indicate he called Webster and then arranged the meeting for Monday at Webster’s suggestion. The meeting will include Manning, Webster, Hoover and Gowers.
“I talked to Travis in the interest of getting the dock done and saving the port attorney’s fees,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said he listened to the meeting in which the letter to BC Fisheries was first mentioned and said he heard no reason for it to be sent.
The cease and desist demand, according to Fitzgerald, was the first notice Manning received concerning a deadline for the work or indicating BC Fisheries was holding up the completion of the dock.
Fitzgerald said he still has not received any evidence of a July 31 deadline.
In a letter, Rice said, “Information that I received from port staff is that Mr. Manning has been well aware of the need to seal the dock since December of last year and that this work is to be completed during an extended period of good weather.
“To date, your client has been either unwilling or for some reason unable to coordinate this work with the port. It recently came to port staff’s attention that there is an impending deadline of July 31 by which all work is required to be complete.”
Port officials are not certain they would lose the money from the IFA if they miss the deadline, according to Rice. But she said Hall spoke to Ted Werth of the IFA and he intends to make the $41,000 available even if it is past the deadline.
“Considering that your client has known about this need for months and has failed to identify any time frame that would work best for his business operations,” Rice said, “the port has been backed into a corner and needs to set forth a definitive timeline for completion of the work.”
Port Commissioner Wesley Ferraccioli said he had been informed that BC Fisheries had been notified multiple times to make time for the dock construction. However, he said he was unable to find emails, letters or evidence from an earlier meeting concerning the deadline issue.
Fitzgerald maintains his requests for documents were unanswered and said port staff could have walked the first letter across the parking lot if time was critical. He added they could have requested a meeting as well.
“It’s not fair that my client had to pay for me to resolve this,” he said.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at email@example.com