Port should develop a policy regarding pay | In Our Opinion

The Poulsbo Port Commission should establish a written policy specifying what commissioners can submit for their $104-per-meeting payment. There is currently no policy, and commissioners have wide latitude in what they can claim.

State law says port commissioners can be paid for “actual attendance at official meetings of the port district commission,” and for “performance of other official services or duties on behalf of the district.” Poulsbo port commissioners each receive $104 a meeting based on a formula set by state law. Each commissioner’s annual compensation cannot exceed $12,535.

The Poulsbo Port Commission meets twice a month, but port commissioners attend other meetings and functions related to port business during the month. Some of the payments make sense.

The port district compiled into a book all of the resolutions approved in the district’s history, and commissioners Steve Swann, Tony DeCarlo and Jim Rutledge were each paid when they visited the port office to review the resolutions in the book. They were paid for joint meetings with the Poulsbo City Council, for meeting with the mayor, and for touring the old police station, which the port considered buying.

Swann, who is involved on behalf of the port in downtown marketing efforts, was paid for participation in meetings with the Poulsbo Marketing Coalition and American Cruise Lines. Commissioners were also paid when they attended a Washington Public Ports Association seminar.

But some commissioners put in for payment when they stopped by the office to chat with the port district manager. DeCarlo billed for such mundane or routine matters as “looked at the parking lot,” stopping by the office to sign a letter and talk to the port manager (one day after a commission meeting), and signing a warrant for a payment (two days before a commission meeting).

Swann’s billings included chamber and convention bureau lunches, a Rotary Club meeting in which the Winter Rendezvous was discussed, the Port of Kingston’s open house, and two meetings at the North Kitsap Herald about the proposed annexation measure. One of those meetings at the Herald was for an interview by the newspaper’s Community Advisory Board on annexation; the other was to review the Herald’s format for a public forum on the annexation measure.

All three commissioners were paid to stand on the dock and greet American Cruise Lines passengers visiting Poulsbo.

All told, Swann was paid $9,541.57 in 2013; DeCarlo, $6,811.94; and Rutledge, $5,856.71.

Bottom line: If port business is discussed, a commissioner can request payment. “They can bill for just about any time they

spend on port business. It’s pretty broad,” Port Manager Brad Miller said. “There have been commissioners who have come down here to meet with me, to talk with me for 15 minutes, and they’ll bill for a meeting. Then, there’s times they’ll go to a luncheon and maybe discuss some port business, and they’ll say, ‘Put me down for a meeting.’ If they talk about port business, they can be compensated.”

So, if a reporter contacts a port commissioner for a news story, can the commissioner bill the port district $104? Miller said that hasn’t happened, “not that I’ve seen,” but “I guess conceivably they could.” Two previous billings related to the Herald weren’t far off from that.

Consider these possible scenarios: A future commissioner is driving through downtown and decides to drive by the port parking lot to see the level of use that day. He or she could bill the port district $104. Not bad pay for a drive by.

A commissioner is attending a social gathering and neighbors strike up a conversation about marina improvements. The commissioner could bill for that.

A commissioner volunteers at a community event. Is he or she volunteering as a citizen, or can he or she volunteer as a commissioner? It’s a pertinent question, because if he or she goes as a commissioner the port district could end up paying $104.

Clearly, some parameters are needed. If a warrant needs to be signed, unless it’s an emergency, it can wait until the next meeting. Something as mundane as visiting the office to say hello or pick up mail doesn’t deserve compensation. If a commissioner feels a need to chat with the port director for 15 minutes, the taxpayers shouldn’t pay for it. If it’s really important, it should have been brought up at a regularly scheduled meeting. If a commissioner wants to attend a community function, the other commissioners should approve it first as a billable performance of duties.

The port commission should have port staff draft a policy regarding commissioner pay.


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