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Port of Seattle Commission Responds To State Audit, CEO Resignation

David Lee

At a special commission meeting Tuesday, the Port of Seattle responded to a state accountability audit and to the resignation of ex-CEO Ted Fick.

In 2015, the commission approved a one-time payout to certain employees to boost employee morale and retention amid reorganization. Auditors flagged the move during a yearly accountability audit as it was being debated.

The Washington State auditor's office found the payout did not comply with the state's constitution. The payout was also at issue in Fick's suspension, according to documents made public shortly after he resigned last week.

Commissioners and other port officials found the former executive had included himself as one of the employees who would receive the pay bump, according to an addendum to Fick's 2016 performance review. The same document also accuses Fick of inappropriately accepting gifts.

At Tuesday's meeting, commissioners and port officials agreed to do a legal review of the payout to see if any action needs to be taken. But they stood by the move, saying it was the right thing to do for the port's employees. 

Commissioner Courtney Gregoire noted that the auditor's office took issue with the way the payout was organized, which was part of Fick's job.

"The Port of Seattle Commission does plan to take a number of measures to increase overall transparency between the executive office and the commission going forward," Gregoire said. "And that speaks to implementation decisions that were delegated to our CEO."

The former CEO has said the commission should have known he would be eligible for the extra pay. But at the same meeting, commissioners voted to amend the code of conduct so the elected body has more oversight of the managers.

"There ultimately has to be this overriding commitment to serving the public good," Commissioner Fred Felleman said. "And we're going to set an ethical standards that may be something above and beyond what somebody coming strictly from the business community is used to."

A Seattle native and former knkx intern, Simone Alicea has returned to the Pacific Northwest from covering breaking news at the Chicago Sun-Times. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.