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Panel restricts port head's job

By Tom Hubka

WesCom Wire Service

The outgoing director of the Port of Brookings Harbor had his duties severely curtailed after the port commission moved to limit his work duties.

In a 3-2 decision last week, the commission accepted Scott's planned resignation and then decided to limited his duties until his departure strictly to refinancing the port's multi-million dollar debt.

Scott had declared his intent to resign in late February, saying he might stay on through June to see the completion of the refinancing with the state, the port's main creditor.

"Until a new director and board are sworn in, we need to maintain status quo," Commissioner Lloyd Whaley said, reading a prepared statement after proposing that Scott's duties be curtail. "I move we accept his resignation and that his duties be limited to refinancing only, and the day-to-day operations be completed by other port staff."

Accepting Scott's resignation was on the agenda, but Whaley's motion to curtail Scott's job was not.

Initially following the commission's decision, Scott said, "It makes my job easier."

However, in a statement submitted to the Curry Coastal Pilot, Scott said the "current problem" was not a result of his performance in helping the port reduce its debt, but rather refusing to tell port tenants they are not allowed to "conduct campaign activities" in their businesses.

This was at the request of commissioners Whaley and Kathy Lindley, Scott said. He sought a legal opinion, and the attorney informed him it was against federal law.

Lindley said she understood the laws surrounding political activities differently. She referred to the port's standards for development, which she helped revise in 1996, that expressly prohibit "political signs."

"The refinancing is what this is all about," she said Friday.

During Tuesday's meeting, Commission Chair Sue Gold and Commissioner Ted Freeman cast the dissenting votes. Freeman said the commission should trust Scott to fulfill the responsibilities of his post.

"He needs to continue on in his position," Freeman said.

But Lindley said Scott needed to focus on the refinancing because he was, in her opinion, not fulfilling those day-to-day duties.

She said the commission had asked for winter rates for the RV park months ago, and Scott had never set them. In a previous meeting, Lindley said Scott had not informed her of the situation surrounding the rent issue with Fely's Cafe, a restaurant in the port, and that she only found out about it when a community member called her.

Lindley also underscored the seriousness of the refinancing and how Scott's attention should be dedicated to it rather than other issues.

"His time is being taken up with festivals when it should have been on refinancing," she said.

"It's my impression that there's just too much going on," Lindley said Thursday. "The refinancing is the most important thing we have going on."

The commission's decision leaves the question of who will now be responsible for Scott's daily duties. Those duties, Scott said, include everything from managing major port decisions to personnel problems.

"Just the normal day-to-day things," he said. "If someone does something wrong, how do you correct it? What do you buy? What do you not buy? There have got to be 50 questions a day that have to be answered."

Scott and Lindley said Harbormaster Mike Blank and Office Manager Judy Mellus will likely be the people answering those 50 questions.

"They've been employees of the port for a number of years, and it's already the normal chain of command, I believe," Lindley said. "There's just more delegation."

She also said she had not heard discussion about changing the salaries of Blank, Mellus or Scott to reflect their respective changes in duties.

Blank said he had already started assuming some of the new responsibilities, but he was not sure of the extent of all the additional duties.

"It's too early to tell," he said. "I'll do whatever is requested of me to the best of my ability."

The state's point man for the port, Guy Alvis, said the decision may have future implications for their relationship.

"It certainly changes the situation that we had anticipated," he said Thursday. "I've expressed my concern to the commissioners for clarification."

Alvis added the state is willing to give the commission time to work out the details and doesn't want to apply too much pressure yet.

"Based on what they determine, it will help us decide if it's something we're concerned about," he said.

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