A Democrat and a Republican have teamed up to scrutinize Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani's controversial second job by filing a records request looking for conflicts of interest. And in doing so, they look squarely at the CEO, the port's lawyers, and even the port commissioners who approved the CEO's employment contract in the first place.

The request was filed by Democratic representative Gerry Pollet and Republican former legislator Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government (which is known for filing sunshine lawsuits). I've posted their full records request after the jump.

By way of background, Port of Seattle Commissioner Rob Holland and Gael Tarleton have asked port CEO Tay Yoshitani to either resign from his $367,000 government job or his $230,000-a-year job on the board of shipping logistics firm Expeditors International.

Speaking to Tarleton yesterday, she told me "I want to have an executive session next week," which is a private meeting of port commissioners, about this issue. (Final decisions about taking action, such as a resolution asking Yoshitani to resign one of his jobs, must occur in a public meeting, Tartleton explains.) But because this brouhaha concerns a personnel matter, she says, the port's commissioners can't discuss the issues in public. She says that the port commissioners met in executive session last year when they first discussed an employment contract that would allow Yoshitani to take a second job.

But given that we got into this mess by talking in private—and now lawmakers are trying peer into this process—it seems like this is the sort of meeting that needs to happen in the open air.

Vanessa Ressler
Records Program Manager

Public Records Act Request

Dear Port of Seattle Public Records Manager Ressler,

Our ports, and the Port of Seattle in particular, are economic engines for creating jobs in our state. The Legislature has an important role in safeguarding that function and the public’s trust in our ports. Thus, it is important for the Legislature to review if our current laws regarding what constitutes a conflict of interest are adequate to protect this vital public interest. Further, it is important to base legislation on actual situations which have arisen, rather than on rumor or misimpressions. We hope that the Port will provide the requested records to facilitate our mutual interest in these important goals.

It is important to earn public confidence and trust in the Port of Seattle’s decisions given the import of the Port on our region’s well-being. In order to have a public discussion about whether the Port of Seattle’s ethics and conflict of interest rules and state laws are adequate to prevent appearances of conflicts of interest, it is important that the Port be open and transparent in disclosing how the Port reviewed and approved the agreement allowing the Port’s CEO to serve on the Board of Directors of Expediters International.

Therefore, pursuant to the Public Records Act (RCW 42.56), on behalf of myself and the undersigned, we are requesting copies of the following public records (including all correspondences, email, electronic, and paper records) relating to:

1. The reviews conducted by the Port’s counsel, Workplace Responsibility Officer, and the Port Commission leading to approval of the relationship between the Port’s CEO and Expediters International. This includes, but is not limited to:

a. all conditions or restrictions on the participation by the CEO of the Port in Port decisions resulting from his relationship with Expediters International and compensation from that company;

b. descriptions of the relationships between Expediters International and customers of the Port, and descriptions of the duties of the CEO in regard to negotiations, oversight and policies relating to those customers;

c. all analyses of how the Port’s Code of Ethics applies to the proposed and approved relationship;

d. all reviews regarding compliance with, and analyses of the application of, the State’s laws governing conflicts of interest and the doctrine of avoiding an appearance of conflict of interest.

e. all reviews by the “Workplace Responsibility Officer” of the Port, pursuant to the Port’s Code of Ethics, of the proposed relationship, and, if the Workplace Responsibility Officer did not conduct such a review, all records relating to why this review did not occur or was replaced by some other person or entity. See Code of Ethics CC-1, II(A) and (B), and IV (Duty to Report all potential conflicts to the Workplace Responsibility Officer).

2. All minutes, correspondence (email or other, including text messages or handwritten) regarding approval of the letter responding to the concerns of legislators sent by Tom Albro, “on behalf of the Seattle Port Commission”, including, but not limited to:

a. How the letter was approved by the Port Commission acting without a public meeting and without public notice of action.

3. Arrangements for meetings, or any other discussion of further review of either the approval of the service on the Board of Expediters International by the Port CEO or the concerns raised by outside individuals, including legislators and media after August 14, 2012.

4. All correspondence with Expediter's International referred to in the letter sent by Commissioner Tom Albro to legislators on August 29, 2012, whereby Expediters International expressed that this relationship would not violate either its internal policies or SEC rules.

a. This includes, but is not limited to, reviews of the relevance of those internal policies and rules; and,

b. Discussions of specific relationships between Expediters and Port customers which may create even an appearance of a conflict of interest.

5. All restrictions or conditions placed upon the Port CEO as result of the reviews by the Port’s counsel and Workplace Responsibility Officer, or any other person or entity, in regard to compliance with the Ports’ Code of Ethics, state law or the avoidance of appearance of conflict of interest doctrine.

Records requested include correspondence with any party. Correspondence requested includes records of any phone calls or meetings, including handwritten notes or memos regarding such calls or meetings; meeting notes, summaries or minutes.

If records relating to Port Commission review and approval are on non-Port computers or other electronic devices, those records are subject to disclosure pursuant to this request.

For any of the requested records which are commonly used, and easily copied, electronic formats (e.g. Word, emails with metadata, pdf), please provide the records to us in that electronic format to save time and reduce costs. If some records are available sooner than others, please forward those rather than waiting for a search for other records. If any records are withheld or redacted please provide: an index of all such records; the specific exemption to the Public Records Act authorizing such redaction or withholding; and, an explanation of how the claimed exemption specifically applies to the redacted or withheld record. If a record is redacted under any exemption, please provide all remaining non-exempt portions of that record.

Please send correspondence regarding this request and electronic records to: Gerry@gerrypollet.com and Gerry.pollet@leg.wa.gov.

Thank you in advance for providing these records to have an informed public discussion about the adequacy of our safeguards for sound decision-making and avoidance of conflicts of interest by public officials.

Representative Gerry Pollet

The Washington Coalition for Open Government
Toby Nixon, President