Ferguson v. Port of Olympia, Part II

Ok, jumping back in on the Port of Olympia. If you want to start at the beginning, go here for Part I.Logs Oly port 2011July1 (3)

If you want to start with Part II and not look back, the story is that former finance director Kevin Ferguson has sued the Port of Olympia and Edward Galligan for wrongful discharge, violation of whistleblower law and other tortious conduct.

So, working from the lawsuit Ferguson v. Port of Olympia again, I note/quote from the lawsuit:

  • “In approximately late June/early July, 2011, plaintiff (Ferguson) met with two Commissioners to alert them to what plaintiff considered to be some of the serious issues that he had reported to Galligan (Port Executive Director Edward Galligan) , and advised them that Galligan had failed to take any remedial action.  The issues that plaintiff reported at that time included the failure of Galligan to follow Port personnel policies, and the apparent nepotism and increased technology expenses in a potentially unlawful awarding of a technology contract.”

and

  • “on August 16, 2011, plaintiff was compelled to submit a written report via email to Port Commissioner Jeff Davis, which laid out plaintiff’s reasonable belief about violations of law or policy and waste of Port funds, most of which implicated Galligan.  The written report identified a variety of matters with details information, including but not limited to the following:

(a.) Nepotism in the award of the Port’s IT contract to the brother-in-law of Galligan’s former secretary and the Port’s HR Manager, who was directly responsible for all information technology at the Port, which appeared in conflict with Port Policy 108.

(b.) Change of the IT award/oversight from the HR Manager to a staff person, who was nevertheless supervised by the HR Manager, continuing to appear in conflict with Port Policy 108.

(c.) Waste of Port funds in paying an excessive amount of $10,000 per month to maintain the IT system, and payment of such amounts with lack of adequate service by the IT consultants – one who resided in Vermont most of the year and the other who left the Port without local technology support while out of the area.

(d.) Award of the IT contract to an entity which has a statutory two year ban from public work due to previously operating without a license

(e.) Payment to the IT contractor after the contract expired, and renewal of an expired contract without first requesting new proposals for qualifications or bids.”

In reading through the 17 page Ferguson complaint, it becomes clear that the IT contract is a somewhat central thread that should be subject to public scrutiny for the purposes of deciding if the Port is operating in an ethical and forthright manner.

So, how would we start to get to the heart of this story?   Why not start with a quick look at the contracting entity and the contract?

Sorry, need to go to work, will be back with a look at the contracting entity and the contract in a day or two.

Ferguson v. Port of Olympia, Part I

What is going on at the Port of Olympia?proppant ship

The Daily Olympian carried a story on May 21, 2013 about a lawsuit filed by the Port’s former finance director, Kevin Ferguson, against the Port and the Port’s Exec Director, Edward Galligan. .  Among other things, Ferguson’s lawsuit alleges that the Port’s contract for IT services is not quite right.

That’s an interesting allegation and one that might be easy to sort out.

Here are specific passages and allegations from the Ferguson lawsuit:

  • “In approximately January, 2011, Galligan directed plaintiff (Ferguson) to write a leter or recommendation to the Port Commissioners in support of a pay raise for Galligan.  Although he was not comfortable with this directive, plaintiff was compelled to follow Galligan’s instruction.  Plaintiff wrote the letter, but only after informing two commissioners in advance as to the directive he had been given.”

A little bit of context for this bit: Galligan was Ferguson’s direct supervisor at the time and the commissioners are charged with supervising the executive director.  Is there a cause of action here?  Probably not, but I think lots of us understand that this type of request from a direct supervisor would feel coercive and manipulative.

  • “Throughout plaintiff’s employment he observed and discovered a variety of matters which adversely impacted the financial status of the Port and which he reasonabley believed to constitute mismanagement, waste or violations of law…  Many of the items plaintiff was discovering and observing included acts or omissions by the office of the Executive Director, Galligan.”

A little bit of context for this item:  The Port belongs to all of us.  The Port holds title to property with a value in the range of 300 million dollars.  The management of these holdings require that the tax payers of Thurston County ante up 4.8 million dollars per year to keep the Port afloat.  These simple facts do raise questions about the financial management at the Port.  Couldn’t we simply hire a property management firm and get a better return on investment?

The Port likes to tout its role in job creation, but I think a hard look at the jobs that would actually disappear if the port property was operated by a property management firm instead of a quasi-public agency would reveal that the public is buying very few good local jobs with the investment of 4.8 million per year.

That’s enough for today, back in a few days with more from the Port on questions about the IT contract and the Port’s environmental record.