House Speaker Frank Chopp, widely seen as the legislature's most powerful lawmaker, sent a missive on state letterhead this morning that exhibits Olympia's growing concern about management at the Port of Seattle. He asks the port commissioners to resolve Port CEO Tay Yoshitani's controversial second job in public, not in closed-door sessions.
To get you caught up: The issue stems from Yoshitani's employment contract that was renewed last year, which port lawyers insist is legal, that allows Yoshitani to moonlight on the board of Expeditors International, a gig that pays him $230,000 per year. Two port commissioners—first Rob Holland and later Gael Tarleton—have said the CEO must resign one of his two jobs, and another, John Creighton, says outside lawyers need to revisit the contract.
Today, Chopp piles on, pointing out that Expeditors International "could potentially engage in business with the Port, directly or indirectly," therefore raising "the potential for conflict of interest in a position of public trust." He then seems to take a dig at Port Commissioner Tarleton, who has suggested the port begin to resolve the issue in a closed-door executive session. "I believe that this decision needs more transparency and should be reviewed by the Port Commission in an open public meeting, in order to assure the public that no conflict of interest exists in this matter," Chopp wrote. (Update at 3:00 pm: Reached by phone, after I called him this morning, Chopp says he isn't specifically asking commissioners not to hold an executive session, just to keep the proceedings in public where people can ask questions.) You can read his full letter here.
For another perspective, the Seattle Times has said, "This issue needs to go away."
But it won't.