The Port of Bellingham and You

Commissioner Doug Smith Conflicts of Interest

Conflict of Interst ??

Doug Smith, a Port of Bellingham Commissioner, says there is no conflict of interest for him to construct buildings for his profit on Port property.

But - a lease for an airplane hangar at the Bellingham Airport is hard to come by. Many would like to build one - and very few get leases from the Port to do so.

So - when the Port grants a lease - and a Port Commissioner is the one who then takes over the permitting process for the leassee, this raises strong concerns about conflict of interest.

Monday, August 27

Port Commissioner Doug Smith makes a lot of money off of Port lease tenants. A new $480,000 helicopter service building is just being completed by Doug's construction company, Com-Steel, L.L.C. This is in addition to the $420,000 hangar his firm built that was completed in July. Nice work - if you can get it.

In my opinion, Doug is using his power as a Port Commissioner to get these profitable contracts. I also think his work is in direct violation of the Washington State Conflict of Interest laws. I will be notifying state officials of what I've uncovered and I challenge Doug Smith to seek a legal opinion from the State Attorney General and the State Auditor.

Here are the facts on this second building. The Building Permit application shows the applicant address for Com-Steel, Port Commissioner Doug Smith's company, Then Com-Steel, designed the building. Then his company ordered the steel for the building. And, finally, his company erected the building. All this is in the Whatcom County Planning Department files. Permit # COM2001-00016. Anyone can go look at the file.

Here is a scan of the Permit. 2321 E Bakerview Rd is the address of Com-Steel. Doug Smith owns the building and property.

At the Rome Grange last Wednesday, Doug defended his company doing work for Port tenants. He said he is within the law and sees nothing wrong with what he does. When asked how many building his company has built on Port property he had to think for a bit. He thought three new buildings and modifications to two others. We think we have found the third building and will post the info later this week.

Here is a photo of the new helicopter service facility. It is almost finished. The sign advertises office space for lease. The space on what the plans refer to as a "storage mezzanine" will be rented as commercial office space.

The building is on Williamson Way, next to the main runway. While it is not connected at this time to the tarmac and runways, it is so placed that it can easily be connected. This is an issue that Doug Smith can either vote for or influence his fellow commissioners to vote for. And this would add considerably to the value of the helicopter service facility. A rich construction contract to Doug Smith can smooth the way for a favorable vote on a connection to the runway. And this is why the state laws forbid such activity by elected officials.

Doug Smith is running for reelection. We voters should ask that he explain himself of these business deals. I don't think he can.

August 14, 2001

Seems Port Commissioner Ginny Benton is not the only one benefiting financially from Port of Bellingham tenants. Commissioner Doug Smith thinks nothing is wrong with getting the construction contracts on Port property from Port tenants.

On August 1, two weeks ago, the Whatcom County Planning Department granted five Occupancy Permits for the five airplane bays in the newest airplane hangar at the Bellingham Airport. The hangar was permitted and built by Com-Steel, the construction firm owned by Port Commissioner Doug Smith.

This is a flagrant conflict of interest by elected Port Commissioner Doug Smith. Doug Smith has a great financial benefit from this entire transaction on Port property. Indeed, Ginny Benton's benefit from her job with a Port tenant pales in comparison.

The problem here is not everyone who wants to get a lease on Port property can get one. Especially at the Bellingham Airport, and especially an airplane hangar. A choice lease and a very profitable one. On May 2, 2000, the Port Commissioners granted a 25 year lease for a 60 foot by 300 foot, 5 bay airplane hanger to the Plank Family LLC. Commissioner Smith excused himself from vote to grant the lease, but noted that he "had no financial interest in this transaction and no beneficial interest, either direct or indirect, in the contract." This was not true.

Doug Smith got the $421,344.00 construction contract from Plank to build the hangar on Port property. But, the deal was not so removed as even that. Doug Smith, and his company, Com-Steel, LLC were active in getting the building permit from Whatcom County Planning. When delays and questions came up, it was Doug Smith who wrote to the county, let them know that he was irritated with the delays and called meetings between Port staff and County planning staff to iron out the problems. Doug Smith hammered the permit through for his client Plank.

Here is one example of a note from his company to the County planning department. This shows conclusively Doug Smith involved in getting the building permit for his client. This is a powerful elected official pushing for a building permit per his specifications. And he got it. Notice that Plank Family LLC did not apply for the building permit and then just happen to hire Doug's Com-Steel to build the hangar. Doug Smith and his company acted as Plank's agent to get permits - after the Port gave Plank the lease on Port property.

Doug Smith was a direct beneficiary of the Plank lease for an airplane hangar on Port property. Further, he was intimately involved in the whole process once the Port had granted the lease to Plank.

Below is the finished hangar.

I phoned Doug Smith and asked him for his comments on this. He said there was no conflict so long as Plank had a lease on Port property. "There is no conflict with my doing business if they have a lease. Hell no." But he went further. Regarding myself, he said: "You are a fool. You are earning a reputation for irresponsible reporting. Why bother commenting to you. You will print your lies anyway. You have a reputation for irresponsible reporting. You do not do research. You just shoot your mouth off with out researching. If you persist then the rest of the community will think you a fool also." OK, Doug, we'll see what develops.

This is not the only building Smith's company has built for Port tenants on Port property. I'll be reporting on more over the next few weeks. All documented.

I invite other citizens to ask Doug Smith about his contracts. I hope that State authorities will look into this. The file on all this is at the Whatcom County Planning Department, permit # COM-2000-00160. You can go to the counter, ask for the file, and read it for yourself.

I will be posting further information about Doug Smith's benefiting from his contracts for construction on Port property.