Newcomer Blankenship questions Port of Coupeville policies

Port of Coupeville commissioners Benye Weber, Marshall Bronson and Laura Blankenship have spent time during recent meetings arguing about how decisions are made. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Port of Coupeville commissioners Benye Weber, Marshall Bronson and Laura Blankenship have spent time during recent meetings arguing about how decisions are made.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

After only two months in office, newly elected commissioner Laura Blankenship is wondering who has the power and authority at the Port of Coupeville.

A number of decisions have been made in recent weeks without a vote of the three-member board of commissioners.

“I’d like for us to be following the RCW and within the parameters of how a port should be operating,” Blankenship said last week.

During a recent meeting of the commissioners for the Port of Coupeville, she cited several instances where commissioners didn’t vote before a decision was made. Those instances include acquiring a dilapidated sail boat and comments the port’s executive director made to the media.

She said there doesn’t seem to be any resolution on file that delegates authority to make those decisions away from the elected board.

In the case of the sailboat, Jim Patton, executive director, said he kept the commissioners apprised of the situation and followed guidelines set forth by the state Department of Natural Resources. He said the boat was unsafe and he couldn’t wait for a monthly meeting to approve the port taking possession of the boat. That way, the boat’s owner could move to a safer home. The port later sold the boat through a bidding process.

Another decision Blankenship questioned concerned offering free moorage to the historic “tall ships” that visit each August. The port should have a policy setting guidelines where free moorage can be offered rather than deciding on a case-by-case basis.

“It seems to be prudent that we’re being fair and equitable,” Blankenship said.

Patton said the port often offers free moorage to nonprofit groups that contribute to Coupeville’s economy and the board always makes the decision whether to waive the moorage fee.

Blankenship also questioned whether Patton, who is an hourly contractor, should be able to represent the port to the media. Her concerns came after she read comments Patton made to the Whidbey News-Times about a February meeting regarding what he saw as Blankenship’s “antagonistic” behavior toward fellow commissioner Benye Weber.

“I think that was really inappropriate,” Blankenship said during the March 14 meeting. She said in an email to Patton and fellow commissioners that she reviewed the executive director’s contract and found it doesn’t mention that he should be the press contact.

Blankenship suggested a meeting should take place on who should be the media representative for the Port of Coupeville. She suggested that one of the commissioners should be the press contact.

She hopes some of her issues will be placed on the agenda during an upcoming port meeting, which is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 11, at the Coupeville Public Library.


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