By Charles Lam
Northwest Asian Weekly
After much public controversy and criticism, the Seattle Port Commission is calling for extra review of Port CEO Tay Yoshitani’s appointment to the board of directors of Expeditor’s International, a global freight forwarding company.
To do this, they passed a motion during a special meeting on Monday, Sept. 11, calling for additional outside legal counsel to examine the appointment and to review the already completed conflict of interest analyses of both the commission’s inside and previous outside counsels. The motion passed nearly unanimously, with Commissioner Bill Bryant abstaining from the vote due to concerns with the cost of hiring an additional outside counsel.
Then the commission unanimously passed another motion, publicly releasing the original outside counsel analysis. The motion was based on several amendments Commissioner Bryant originally wanted to apply to the first motion.
These votes came after two hours of public testimony and commission discussion in the maximum capacity commission chambers on Pier 69.
Though both inside and outside counsels have already determined that there is no conflict of interest, an opinion most of the commission agree with, the commissioners, who have received more than 2,000 e-mails, were also in agreement that something had to be done.
“We don’t have an actual conflict here, but we have an appearance problem,” Commission John Creighton said.
Commission President Gael Tarleton, who is a candidate for the Washington Legislature in the 36th District, said after the meeting that she still feels Yoshitani should choose between the two positions. She prefers that he step down from Expeditor’s.
The public testimony was divided, with more negative comments than positive.
“Expeditor’s job is to route traffic over a variety of marine facilities and airports, and pick the best route for its customers. As a director of Expeditors, Mr. Yoshitani is responsible for the direction and success of this business,” said Michael Crutcher, a Seattle resident and retired lawyer who had represented the Port of Seattle in the 1970s, “You say on your website that ‘the Port of Seattle is an economic development and international trade resource for customers all over the world,’ providing ‘fast, convenient, and reliable access to global markets.’ … Mr. Yoshitani is your chief salesman to accomplish that purpose. How can these dual roles not be in conflict?”
In response to the outcome of the meeting, Tay Yoshitani released a statement via the Port of Seattle’s website, stating, “I have reviewed the motion and I’m prepared to fully cooperate with the review, so the matter can be resolved and the port can move forward. I believe that I have followed all the proper steps, but will accept accountability if anything I have done is contrary to any statute or applicable policy.” (end)
Charles Lam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.