I am the District 3 commissioner for the Port of Coupeville. I am writing this letter to set the record straight regarding Rick Abraham’s access to the Port’s office and records.
Rick Abraham served the port for six months as a volunteer on a committee to review the management of Greenbank Farm.
During that time he visited the port office many times to talk with Port Director Jim Patton and review port records.
Patton confirmed two things publicly: One, he gave Rick Abraham and other committee members permission to enter the Port office to review records when he was not there, and two, he gave explicit direction to the port harbormaster and port tenant in the adjacent shop that they were to let Mr. Abraham in if he was not there.
The committee concluded its work and submitted its report Jan. 2. Patton told me repeatedly that he and Rick Abraham became friends and that he and Mr. Abraham continued to meet frequently at the port office to review records and for long discussions about the port, Greenbank Farm and other areas of common interest.
He was aware that Mr. Abraham continued to be admitted to the port office by the port tenant and Harbormaster to review files when he was not there.
Patton has confirmed to me and in a public port meeting that he never revoked Mr. Abraham’s permission to enter the port office alone, nor had he retracted his authorization to the Harbormaster and the port tenant to let Mr. Abraham in when he was not there.
The proverbial excrement hit the fan seven months into this arrangement when Port Commission Chairman Marshall Bronson showed up at the port office to find Rick Abraham in the office alone, reviewing port computer files.
Commissioner Bronson challenged Mr. Abraham and was told that he had permission from Patton to be there doing exactly what he was doing.
Commissioner Bronson did not ask Mr. Abraham to leave nor he did he call the police. Instead, during the port’s February public meeting, with a large audience present, including a newspaper reporter, Commissioner Bronson departed from the agenda to accuse Mr. Abraham of illegally entering the port office.
This was not a published agenda item and was raised by Commissioner Bronson just before the meeting was to be adjourned, and after Mr. Abraham had left the meeting.
Commissioner Benye Weber, who stated that Commissioner Bronson told her about the incident and that she had not raised the issue because Mr. Abraham had left meeting, unfortunately added her own vehement condemnation of what she assumed was Mr. Abraham’s manipulation of the port tenant to let him in to the office.
Rick Abraham returned to the March public port meeting and read a clear, concise account of his understanding of the access he had been given by Director Patton and the interaction with Commissioner Bronson.
He requested a public apology from Commissioners Bronson and Weber for their erroneous accusations about him, feeling his reputation was damaged by their public statements.
Weber and Bronson apologized.
That should have been the end of it. Instead the Whidbey NewsTimes published an article the following Saturday that omitted pertinent facts which cleared Mr. Abraham’s name and reputation.
This was compounded by an unsigned editorial in the same edition which slyly fueled the misconceptions about Mr. Abraham.
It is time for this to end. Rick Abraham did nothing wrong.
The port harbormaster and port tenant did nothing wrong when they let Rick Abraham into the port office by himself. They were given specific authorization by Port Executive Director Patton to do so.
Neither Commissioners Bronson, Weber or myself knew about Director Patton’s liberal office and records access policy.
Director Patton apologized publicly to the commissioners for not advising them.
He obviously felt confident of the integrity and honesty of the people he gave solo access to and I for one have to applaud him for taking the open public records mandate to heart.
The commissioners will consider a more restrictive policy for public access at the regular April Port meeting.
In my opinion this is the appropriate resolution for a policy disagreement between the port director and his port commissioners.
I offer Rick Abraham, whom I know to be a sincere and ethical man of integrity, my heartfelt apology for being innocently caught in the middle the port’s internal policy disagreement.
Commissioner, District 3
Port of Coupeville