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Recall petition: 'Malfeasance and violation of the oath of office' at the Port of Vancouver

In a May 20 article titled ‘Petitions filed to recall Vancouver port commissioners Oliver, Wolfe,’ the Columbian’s Aaron Corvin follows an excellent investigative series that includes the following excerpts:

In recall documents filed Tuesday, Vancouver resident Christopher Clifford accuses Port of Vancouver commissioners Jerry Oliver and Brian Wolfe of malfeasance, misfeasance and violation of the oath of office, including that they “knowingly violated” Washington’s open public meetings law in discussing in closed-door executive sessions a proposal to build what would be the nation’s largest rail-to-marine oil transfer terminal.

The recall petitions and complaint to the Auditor’s Office follow a recent series of stories by The Columbian. The three stories, based in part on public records, court depositions and interviews with experts in open government, found a pattern by port leaders of keeping the community in the dark about crucial financial and policy issues before making decisions and of improper use of closed-door executive sessions to hash out safety, environmental and financial issues, among others, meant to be aired in public.

The complaint alleges the port excluded the public from at least nine meetings in 2013 before approving the oil terminal lease on July 23.

More excerpts from the series:

May 17: ”Culture of secrecy shrouds Port of Vancouver”The Port of Vancouver is a government body that’s beholden to its voters and taxpayers.

Yet its elected officials embrace a culture of secrecy, meeting behind closed doors “about 95 percent of the time,” as one commissioner put it in a court deposition, and making decisions inside a bubble of deference to the port administration and the private industries it courts. As a result, the powerful port often sidesteps full public accountability, which is one reason why it faces impassioned political and legal challenges to its decision to approve what would be the nation’s largest rail-to-marine oil transfer terminal.

May 18: Skids greased for oil terminal behind closed doors

Even the most vigilant of Port of Vancouver watchers couldn’t have foreseen how the port and two private companies were paving the way behind closed doors for quick local approval of what would be the nation’s largest oil-to-marine transfer terminal.

Before the public had heard a single word about the terminal, the port had agreed to negotiate exclusively with Tesoro Corp., a petroleum refiner, and Savage Companies, a transportation company, on their potential use of Terminal 5 and other port facilities. In court depositions, two of the three elected commissioners gave conflicting statements about whether the commission had approved the exclusive discussions or whether the port’s CEO, Todd Coleman, used his administrative authority to sign off on it.

May 19: Oil terminal lease unleashes a gusher of backlash

Sparked by the port’s insular handling of a lease for what would be the nation’s largest rail-to-marine oil transfer terminal, reform-minded critics are pushing the port to embrace a more transparent approach to making decisions. Some are jumping into the race for an open seat on the port commission, hoping to change the organization from within.


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