First to make two points about yesterday's post. And then more on to the meeting this afternoon.
1. Charlie Sheldon did submit his letter of resignation to the port yesterday, Monday, as reported here. Many - including the Herald and Weekly - questioned that fact. Today in open port meeting, this was confirmed. One port person expressed surprise that the news was posted almost at the very time the letter was submitted. What was considered today, Tuesday, was a separation agreement, not his resignation.
2. Two commissioners demanded Charlie's resignation at a meeting last Friday, March 30. Scott Walker was able to convince Jim Jorgensen to join him in asking Charlie to resign. I was in error yesterday in writing that Charlie resigned with only one commissioner, Scott Walker, wanting him to resign. With two, they had a controlling majority of the commission. Charlie did not resign based on his own decision, but upon a legal demand by the Port of Bellingham. Charlie had no choice but to resign.
Mike McAuley showed courage at the meeting, standing up to the two other commissioners and doing everything he could to set the record straight, and to request Jim change his mind and vote with Mike to delay voting on the separation agreement. Mike tried to delay any vote - and use the next couple weeks to let things cool off and maybe resolve the issues and keep Charlie as executive director. Jim was set in his path and offered little in the way of explanation for his voting to oust Charlie.
The port meeting was tense and packed with business owners who spoke strongly in favor of keeping Charlie as executive director. In a rare public comment not fully in support of the commissioners, Bellingham Cold Storage President Doug Thomas even spoke, noting Charlie had provided the best working relationship Thomas had ever experienced. BCS was formed in the 1940s and is one of the largest tenants of port property.
Other speakers were Dan Pike, Buck Meloy, Ann-Marie Faiola, Hue Beattie, John Watts, Robin Dexter, John Blethen, John Munson, Mark Lowery - and more. A most impressive group of speakers and all speaking in support of Charlie. Some were very critical of Scott Walker. Not one person spoke in support of Walker and letting Charlie go. The passion and depth of feeling of all the speakers was something rare for me to watch - and I've watched them for decades.
Commissioner Mike McAuley tried everything in the book to explain to the public why Charlie should not be terminated. And he virtually pleaded with commissioner Jim Jorgensen to change his mind and support keeping Charlie. Mike tried to delay the vote for a couple weeks so the commission could reconsider their action. All to no avail.
After the meeting there was strong talk of a recall of Scott Walker. And also of expanding the commission from 3 to 5 members. For now, what I think would be best is for Scott Walker's closest friends and supporters to urge him to resign. For the sake of the community. Many probably think this will go away soon. I don't think so, and if Scott insists on staying in office, then the next 21 months will be very politically volatile in Whatcom County. But Scott has his heels dug in.
Overall, the fix was in. Quiet, behind the scenes arrangements had been made - and without the involvement of Mike McAuley. I have talked with a number of people close to the situation - and all are concerned about any leaked information leading back to them. And some information needs to be checked further. But I intend to write soon about how this may all have come down.
What can we do now? Well, writing the commission is useless. Jim and Scott displayed a stoney indifference to public opinion. Indeed, Jim Jorgensen lectured the audience of successful business owners about how he understood the inside workings of the port and they had no understanding of how the port worked. Scott simply never addressed the audience. They were merely in front of him and of no consequence. He seem insulated from any public outrage.
What can we do? I think best if we do not forget our sense of loss. Our town seems unable to accept good fortune and great people who can help Bellingham become more. We just tossed Bob Ferris out, and now Charlie Sheldon. We will not find another outstanding person willing to come here to face our grinding, neurotic process only to be tossed back south. We, as a town, do not seem able to handle success.
What can we do when our elected officials act contrary to all that is best for our community and instead act with stubborn and ignoble purposes? Well, that is a good question.