No one thinks that Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani has done a bad job. On the contrary, at a special meeting of the Seattle Port Commission on Sept. 11, where further action on his pending directorship was discussed, virtually every critique was prefaced with a compliment. He did such a great job that just a year ago, the commission awarded him with a new employment contract that included a 9 percent raise and specifically stated that he’s allowed to sit on the boards of private companies when a conflict of interest doesn’t exist, bringing his total compensation to $366.825.
Yoshitani’s lawyer has looked into the issue. The Port of Seattle’s lawyer has looked into the issue. An outside counsel has already looked into the issue. They all arrived at the same conclusion: There is no conflict of interest.
Therefore, Yoshitani should be allowed to accept his position on the board of directors of Expeditors International.
He deserves it. While he makes more than any other port executive in the United States, the ports of the United States aren’t the only organizations that would like for him to run their business. There are plenty of private companies that are interested in his services and that would pay him much more. The director clause in his contract was key to keeping him the CEO of the port through 2014.
Even a majority of the port commission believes that there’s no conflict of interest.
Commissioner John Creighton has referred to it only as “an appearance problem.”
But, instead of being strong and sticking with their position, working to show that they’ve made a sound decision, they decided to bend over backwards for the public. They are doing this not just by releasing the documentation they used to come to their decision, which is a good idea, but also by spending more taxpayer dollars on an additional second outside counsel to not only review the appointment, but to also review the reviews of the appointment that have already been done. They are having lawyers review the work of lawyers who reviewed the work of lawyers.
The commissioners should have stood strong and firm, answering public criticism openly but without completely caving under pressure. Because when you try to please the state legislature, the public, potential voters, and the person they’re upset with, when you try to please everyone involved, there’s a good chance that you’re not going to please anyone. (end)