Evaluation another example of ‘rogue’ commissioner

The weeks leading up to the firing of Port of Coupeville Executive Director Forrest Rambo were wrought with tension for many of the agency’s staff.

At the root of tension, was a rogue evaluation one commissioner took upon himself to conduct without board approval.

Former events coordinator Kristi O’Donnell said she was shocked and betrayed after being asked in early August by Commissioner William Bell to fill out an evaluation of Rambo that she was told had been sanctioned by the board.

After completing the evaluation and meeting with Bell for a one-on-one meeting, O’Donnell said she learned the evaluation had not been approved.

“We were lied to,” she said.

The situation upset several of the employees and some even wrote emails to the board, expressing their disappointment in the situation.

“I was pretty upset,” said Port adminstrative assistant Orion Gudgell. “In all fairness, the format and questions we were being asked didn’t really apply to the executive director.”

Rambo said the evaluation was Bell’s attempt to gather fuel for his desire to terminate him.

“He’d been gunning for me,” Rambo said.

Bell had sort of floated the idea of an evaluation to the other two commissioners over the summer, prior to the resignation of board President Mike Diamanti.

Commissioner John Mishasek said Bell had put packets of info in their boxes at the port office.

He said it was a couple of pages and had kind of “classic, big organization-type language” that didn’t really fit for the port.

The port also didn’t have a policy and procedure in place for conducting staff evaluations.

“I don’t think it would have had an impact,” Mishasek said. “It was a pointless exercise so I just set it to the side and hoped it would go away.”

Diamanti also didn’t consider it at the time.

“This was the cart before the horse,” Diamanti said. “He felt a burning desire to do this on his own before a policy and procedure was in place. He saw Forrest as the key to disfunction at the port.”

This isn’t the first time Bell has moved forward with projects without board approval.

Early in the year, Bell moved forward with hiring a graphic designer to create a new logo for the Greenbank Farm, costing the port several thousand dollars. The board declined to approve the expenditure because it had been done outside of the public discussion. That designer later gifted his work to the port.

“William has a clear pattern of deciding he has a good idea and going forward whether or not he has approval,” Diamanti said.

Bell also went ahead and hired a web developer to get a new website designed prior to approval of the board.

The issue of the unauthorized evaluation, Gudgell said, is it furthers the distrust between staff and the board.

And, as Facilities Maintenance Manager Damon Stadler asked, “Who’s next?”

Bell did not return repeated calls for comment, declined to speak with a reporter in person and did not return an email requesting responses to written questions for this story.