Unauthorized Port employee payments intended to ‘support employee retention’


By Jack Mayne

The Port of Seattle president on Friday afternoon (Feb. 3) defended the reason for a one-time payment to exempt employees a Washington state auditor’s draft report challenged.

The payment was authorized by Port commissioners “to address widespread negative reactions following a series of large-scale organizational changes, moving to a common performance review date and increasing the standard work week from 37.5 hours to 40 hours,” said Port President Tom Albro in a release Friday afternoon.

“We believe that the one-time payment achieved the intended effect of supporting employee retention and addressing employee concerns,” Albro said. “We have conveyed to the state auditor’s office our belief that the Port has a strong legal basis for taking this action.”

In a Puget Sound Business Journal story reported by the B-Town, SeaTac and Waterland blogs, the port was said to have given money to 642 salaried employees.

Then Port of Seattle CEO Ted Flick resigned saying he was more suited for private business than a public agency as the Port of Seattle.

On Wednesday, the Washington State Auditor’s Office told the Port of results of a regularly scheduled accountability audit.

In the draft report, the auditors presented a finding challenging the one-time payment the Port made to exempt employees in December 2015. The Port Commission authorized this payment to address widespread negative reactions following a series of large-scale organizational changes, moving to a common performance review date and increasing the standard work week from 37.5 hours to 40 hours. We believe that the one-time payment achieved the intended effect of supporting employee retention and addressing employee concerns. We have conveyed to the State Auditor’s Office our belief that the Port has a strong legal basis for taking this action.

In the Friday afternoon statement, Albro said the “audit is still in process. We respect the state auditor’s office’s process and accountability to the public, and are working collaboratively with them to expedite completion and public release of the audit with all of the facts and circumstances and the Port’s full response.”

The Port president said the resignation of Fick came because the commission “had raised multiple personnel issues with Mr. Fick during his performance review. He was not placed on administrative leave as a result of the audit,” said Albro.


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