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Port news from Olympia

For those who remember the so-called “pitchfork” meeting and general discord during a previous Port of PT administration under the direction of Sam Gibboney, this article, unfortunately, may not surprise you. Follow the link to read more (or listen to the audio) or read the transcription below.  ::


Transcribed below for the archive:

Port Executive Director Sam Gibboney receives vote of no confidence from staff By Rolf Boone Updated July 12, 2022 5:47 PM

Port of Olympia Executive Director Sam Gibboney has received a vote of no confidence from 22 port staff, representing about 60 percent of the organization’s employees, according to emails shared with The Olympian on Tuesday. The letter of no confidence was sent to the three-member port commission at the end of June, following a staff survey that was compiled in April, the information shows. “We do not believe Sam Gibboney has the capacity to provide the Port of Olympia with the quality leadership and oversight essential to the organization’s health, effectiveness, and functioning,” the letter reads. “The negative impact of the hostile and ineffective work environment we experience has worsened over the past two years.”

The 22 employees who signed the letter represent positions throughout port operations, including its four main business units of marine terminal, marina, real estate and the airport, as well as the administration, finance, maintenance and environmental departments. The letter also summarizes the survey comments. Some of those comments: ▪ Micromanagement at all levels creating an environment of mutual distrust and lack of productivity.

▪ Dishonest communication to members of the staff, commission, and the public creating an environment of distrust. ▪ Staff turnover at the rate of more than 68 percent in the last three years demonstrates the lack of trust and confidence in the executive director. ▪ Poor communication about the commission’s mission and vision for the port.

▪ Lack of fostering an environment of equity and inclusion, no matter the job function, creating an environment of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. Gibboney came to the port from the Port of Port Townsend where she was executive director for two and a half years. Before that she worked for San Juan County in a variety of roles, including as its director of community development, The Olympian reported. Gibboney’s starting salary at the port in 2019 was $175,000. Gibboney received a 3 percent raise and will earn $191,227 in 2022, The Olympian reported.

Gibboney and the commission responds Gibboney, who did not attend Monday’s port commission meeting because she has contracted COVID-19, said Tuesday that the vote of no confidence was a humbling moment and that she takes staff concerns seriously. She acknowledged that communication needs to improve and that the port is taking some steps to engage a management consultant — someone who could provide a frank assessment and recommendations on how to move the port forward. “More communication and listening to each other is going to be key,” she said.

The three port commissioners — Amy Evans, Bob Iyall and Joe Downing — also shared their thoughts on Tuesday. All three said termination is not on the table for Gibboney. “That’s not something we’re pursuing,” Evans said, adding that the commission is trying to work together on personnel matters.

“The port needs to continue to provide value and to do that we need to have a healthy culture,” she said. “All of us in life are a work in progress.” Iyall said the commission has been aware of the situation with the employees for some time. “We are working with her to help her address the situation so she can hopefully move forward and gain some confidence from staff,” he said, adding that the commission is giving her the opportunity to address it and fix it and get back to a cohesive work group at the port. Downing acknowledged that the past two years have been challenging because of the pandemic. He recalled that the port lost one employee over the port’s vaccine mandate policy, a policy he supported, Downing said.

A new union has also been formed at the port, and although Downing said he supports unions, there has been some posturing on their part and some of those members signed the no-confidence letter. He said he supports Gibboney. “If there are some shortcomings, we are addressing them,” he said. “It’s really an internal issue of managing the port.” “We’re going to be responsive to the letter and organization and fix things we can fix,” he added.

This story was originally published July 12, 2022 2:06 PM.
The Olympian
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