Port Commissioners Secretly Meddling

• Topics: Port of Bellingham,

At the May 14 Port of Bellingham meeting, the port commission approved a resolution that would put a proposition on the November ballot asking voters whether to expand to five commissioners.  We all hoped the issue was final and the resolution would be sent to the auditor to be placed on the ballot.

Today, I heard from a very reliable source that the commission plans to change the resolution at tomorrow's (Tuesday, June 5 (not 4 as first posted)) 3 p.m. meeting.  I phoned commissioner Mike McAuley and he confirmed.  Based on advice from the port's attorney, Frank Chmelik, the commission plans to discuss the issue and re-vote to modify the request - and make it a two-part question for the voters.  One portion would be whether to expand the commission, and a second question will ask whether the additional two commissioners should be at-large positions or the port should be expanded to create five port commission districts.  

Here is the rub.  None of this is on the port commission agenda for tomorrow.  This is one of the old processes the port used years ago to avoid any public notice of their actions.  They claim they do not have to list all their actions and can leave off intended issues for discussion and a vote. 

Whether we think a two-part ballot question is okay or not, the commission already voted on this issue at their May meeting.  That should be the end of it.  Planning to modify this, at a meeting when the public is unaware of their intent, is unconscionable.  Indeed, if they think they can modify the resolution, do they have plans to rescind it - cancel it entirely?  In fact, they are able to rescind the proposition anytime up to the November 6 election day.

It is sad to think we need to go to tomorrow's meeting - but I will be there.  We need others there as well.  Our message is simple.  Stick with your resolution.   Do the honorable thing.

Here is the motion and vote per the minutes of the May 14 meeting:

"Motion approved with a 2-1 vote. Commissioners Jorgensen and McAuley voted in favor of signing a resolution on June 12, 2012 and effective June 12, 2012 , to place before the voters an increase of the Port Commission from three to five members with two at-large to be voted on at the November 6, 2012 general election. Commissioner Walker voted against."

This mischief is the result of Chmelik doing his best to slow down, water down, confuse, and delay the intentions of the resolution passed on May 14.  Tomorrow, he will tell the commissioners their resolution is illegal and it asks the auditor to do something illegal. That's ridiculous.  Of course the resolution is legal.  But the hope is that commissioner Jorgensen will be swayed to change his mind, again, and then he and commissioner Walker can pass a new resolution. 

The other part of Chmelik's advice to the commission and the auditor is that there can be no election of new commissioners until November 2013.  He almost has the auditor convinced.  This will leave us with another 19 months of rule by Walker.  And by splitting the issue into two questions, it increases the chances of failure at the ballot box.  Regardless, the resolution is legal, as is the single question on the ballot.

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Tip Johnson

Jun 04, 2012

Giving one or more of them the benefit of the doubt, I would like to point out that it might not be commissioners plural driving Mr. Chmelik’s shenanigans.

More on this at:

Regardless, I am going to be interested in an explanation of Chmelik’s actions, because I haven’t seen this item on the agenda since they approved the earlier resolution.  Is Chmelik acting on his own to preserve his unusually well-paid port position, or is he once again following one commissioner’s direction?  This is an important point to clarify, because he is most likely working on the direction of Scott Walker, the minority vote on the earlier approval.

Of course, we should be getting used to them not letting the public in on their business, so…

Heck, isn’t that why we started the petition?  These guys have no idea how to conduct public business.



Douglas Smith

Jun 04, 2012

  Did we keep the petitions?  I have some signatures.


John Servais

Jun 05, 2012

Yes, keep your petitions.  If the commissioners really do renege on their May 14 resolution then we will resume the petition drive and hopefully put the issue on the November ballot.


Paul deArmond

Jun 05, 2012

The Port, as an institution, has a long and sordid reputation for electoral corruption.  This includes the largest fine levied at the time for diversion of Port resources to an electoral campaign.

This week’s meeting will be a clear signal of institutional intent.

There’s nothing to prevent continuing the initiative petition drive to have the required signatures to put it on the ballot.


Tip Johnson

Jun 05, 2012

A Savvy and seasoned political analyst suggested to me that a forensic team be assigned to watch Port financial dealings, especially with Chmelik, the Port’s lying and cheating attorney at the center of this and the port’s recent controversies.

He advised that this effort to delay changes to the commission for up to two years was a clear signal that the power at the port was intent on hunkering down to continue their looting with impugnity.

It may be time to get the State Patrol and the Attorney General involved.


Cathy McKenzie

Jun 05, 2012

Why does this not surprise me?

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