Port of Seattle commissioner Rob Holland says this afternoon that the port's CEO, Tay Yoshitani, needs to resign his post—or quit a lucrative second job. It's the latest escalation in the clash over what some say is a conflict of interest but a lawyer for the port says is perfectly legal.
"I can no longer stand by and be quiet about my opinion," Holland wrote at first on his Facebook wall. Despite seeing himself as a team player, Holland went on, "we are now at a point where people must take individual stands. We are at a time for choosing. Serving as both CEO and Board member will not work."
Reached by phone, Holland said plainly: "I'd like him to make a choice remaining as the CEO until his contract expires or being on the board of Expeditors International."
Yoshitani has long been under fire for making one of the highest port-executive salaries in the country, at $367,000 a year. But he's taken even more heat lately—including from 13 lawmakers castigating him for the second job and in this Seattle Times article today—for serving as board member of Expeditors International, which deals with global shipping logistics, where he takes in another $230,000 annually.
"People see a potential conflict of interest there," says Holland, explaining why he decided to speak up while other commissioners, such as Tom Albro, have defended the CEO. Expeditors International and the Port of Seattle both deal with logistics, he says, and that gives Yoshitani privileged information that can be leveraged in the private sector at a premium. "He is working and getting that information as a public employee, so it's kind of like trading on the information [he gets at the port]," Holland says. In contrast, he argues, the port commissioners don't work in the shipping or logistics industries.
That said, Holland says Yoshitani has met sterling ethical standards and been quick to fulfill the requests of audits during his tenure. "The problem is perception here," Holland says.
The port commissioners will meet for an executive session on September 11, when—if Holland finds enough support, and thus far he doesn't know who will support him—he may push for a resolution asking Yoshitani to quit one job or the other.