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Seattle port CEO resigns; $4.7M in worker bonuses questioned

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GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press
LISA BAUMANN, Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) — The Port of Seattle’s chief executive who resigned Wednesday covertly gave himself a $24,500 raise, inappropriately accepted gifts for travel and sporting events and potentially directed port business to his father’s company, internal documents released by the port Friday said.

Ted Fick, who had been placed on administrative leave last week pending a review of his performance, resigned Thursday, less than three years after he was hired to the $350,000-a-year position. “Over the past several months, I have come to the realization that my talents and strengths are better suited to the private sector, where I plan to return,” Fick wrote.

Fick’s resignation also came amid an investigation that determined the port had illegally given more than 600 workers about $4.7 million in extra pay.

The payments were discovered during a routine annual audit, which preliminarily determined that they were an unlawful gift of public money under the state Constitution, Kathleen Cooper, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Auditor’s Office, said Friday. The payments were first reported by the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Full audit results won’t be released until the port has a chance to respond, Cooper said. The payments were made to 642 non-union, salaried employees, she said.

Albro told The Associated Press Friday that the audit results were not related to Fick’s performance review and that the commission had approved the extra pay as part of changes made to employee compensation. “We did it publicly and believed it to be legal,” Albro said.

Port documents show that Fick, who proposed the extra pay for employees, also determined that he was eligible to receive the 7 percent one-time pay. He never disclosed the apparent conflict of interest in making that decision, documents said.

Fick has also been facing a charge of driving under the influence after a Washington State Patrol trooper clocked him at 79 mph in a 50-mph zone on the Highway 520 bridge across Lake Washington last April.

The arresting officer asked if he’d been drinking, and Fick responded that he was CEO of the port, according to an arrest report cited by The Seattle Times. His blood-alcohol content registered at 0.096, above the legal limit of 0.08.

The port operates Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, two cruise ship terminals and Fishermen’s Terminal, home of the North Pacific fishing fleet, among other shipping terminals and marinas.

Chief Operating Officer Dave Soike, a 35-year veteran of the port, is serving as interim CEO.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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