Port of Seattle Commissioners call on CEO to resign or else



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Posted on August 29, 2012 at 10:28 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 30 at 6:26 AM

SEATTLE - Two Port of Seattle Commissioners say CEO Tay Yoshitani needs to resign, or else.

Commissioner Rob Holland admitted Wednesday “the problem is the perception” with Yoshitani’s recent acceptance of a side position with a private company.
Expeditors International, a Seattle-based global logistics and freight firm, announced earlier this month that Yoshitani has accepted a position on the Board of Directors.  The Port of Seattle says the position would pay him at least $30,000, a meeting per diem, and stock options.
Yoshitani currently makes $367,000 a year with the Port, in a contract slated to run through 2014. Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, makes $164,391, and Attorney General Rob McKenna makes $151,718.  They are among the highest paid public employees next to Yoshitani.
Thirteen state lawmakers signed a letter, dated last Friday, suggesting there is a conflict of interest for the Port CEO.
“We’ve given him a fairly hefty salary, to which I did vote for. A hefty salary to keep him occupied and interested in the job here,” says Holland.  “I can’t in good faith, as a public official, allow that to continue.”
Holland says he told Yoshitani he needs to choose one job or the other.
“He should resign and I’ll ask him to as the CEO of the Port of Seattle,” says Holland.
Commissioner Gael Tarleton, who is running for State Representative, also says she is giving Yoshitani an ultimatum.
“This is a time when we have to decide that you can’t hold a job in the public sector and the private sector,” Tarleton says.  She says if Yoshitani doesn’t comply with the request, “we will have to review the terms of his employment.”
Both Tarleton and Holland says Yoshitani has indicated he has no desire to quit either job.
Yoshitani did not return a phone call, and a Port spokesman had no comment.
There is a question of what power the Commissioners have to remove Yoshitani from office.  They approved a contract last year, which had a provision allowing him to serve on an outside board. However, Holland says he didn’t believe Yoshitani would seek a position on the board of a company with a potential conflict.
“The assumption was that it (would be) more charitable boards,” says Holland, who added that he is preparing for the next step.  “There are 5 of us, and it only takes three.  I’ll be lobbying the majority of the commission to then begin the process of his removal.”
Commissioner John Creighton, reached by phone, said “We take the appearance of conflict of interest seriously, but I’ll withhold further comment until I meet and discuss my colleagues the future of Tay Yoshitani.”