We agree with the advice Trustee Todd Sullivan offered his colleagues on the wharves board last week after an especially heated discussion about authority, who has it and who doesn’t.

Sullivan suggested members of the board that governs the Port of Galveston should in 2018 relearn the practice of following a chain of command.

We agree that’s a good policy just in general and we are fairly certain the law also requires such adherence.

Sullivan was attempting to quell rancor among board members upset about two recent instances when their colleagues may have overstepped their authority to act without board approval.

There’s not really a “may have” that we can see in the first instance. Board Chairman Ted O’Rourke clearly did overstep his authority when he presented a letter at an Oct. 19 meeting of the Board of Pilot Commissioners. The letter, on port letterhead, called for a change that would give the port representation on the pilot board, which would require legislative action.

The trouble was, the rest of the wharves board apparently had no idea the letter existed, much less had approved it with a vote as should have happened before it became public.

It’s certainly legitimate to ask whether the port and the larger maritime community wouldn’t benefit with some seats on the controversial pilot board. But the wharves chairman should not have acted in such a seemingly official way without board approval and several board members were justifiably angry about the whole affair.

Then on Monday, wharves Vice Chairman Albert Shannon questioned high legal invoices for the months of September and October.

September’s legal invoice was about $24,000 and October’s was about $21,000 while November’s invoice was only $121, Shannon said.

Trustee Elizabeth Beeton said she might be partly to blame.

“I suggested that we should find what other ports’ arrangements with cruise lines are and those contracts should be open records and we could request them,” Beeton said. “The intention was to get background and then our attorney ran with it.”

The open records search resulted in at least 31 hours billed for $7,000, Shannon said.

Beeton apologized for requesting the information directly from the port’s attorney, Anthony Brown, without informing interim Port Director Peter Simons and said she would bring it before the board in the future.

We’re concerned about this because it’s unclear who exactly authorized the port’s attorney to incur that public expense. It wasn’t the board and it apparently wasn’t the port director, so who was it? Is an aside by a single board member enough to set the meter running? If so, that’s wrong.

Also, while there are many things in life for which it’s necessary and proper to pay an attorney $255 an hour, the filing of public information requests is not among them.

Sullivan offered a simple solution to the problem.

“This year, I think we became desensitized to the chain of command because we are going through so many changes,” Sullivan said. “Many board members got used to going directly to Tony. Come the new year, let’s let the chain of command come back. If you have an issue with the port director himself, go to Tony. Otherwise, the port director needs to be involved.”

The board should make that a New Year’s resolution.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

(9) comments

Charlotte O'rourke

Overall ... I agree on the chain of command, but the request must be based on fact and not misinformation.

Misinformation and drama are what happens when the port board is blindsided by the finance committee with an unposted agenda topic on policy and protocol on port legal fees and how they are generated.

The interim port director - Peter Simon and finance committee members Albert Shannon and Richard Devries should apologize to Elizabeth Beeton for the false and misleading information and failure to provide all board members with information prior to the meeting.

The decision to complain about port fees and the policy and procedure related to those fees came about because these two board members are MAD that Beeton requested and won the opportunity to move the port board meetings to city hall.

These two board members FREQUENTLY mentioned this meeting move as not worthy of a six month discussion to save money when she requested spending money -$7,000 on legal fees that requested and reviewed cruise contracts.

I’m sure the truth will come out that this topic was discussed with the port director
DURING an executive committee meeting and that the legal fees are considerably less than previous years and similar to preceding months of 2017.

The $121 quote for November legal bills in the newspaper is inaccurate and could not be discussed at the meeting in December as November bills are not on the check registry until January or February of 2018. However, I believe these invoices may have been discussed inappropriately.

Also, legal invoice bills are privileged and the Trustees need to be very careful with these invoices as it may reveal strategy.

As a FYI, the letter written by the chairman is not only legal but within Port bylaws and was written after Albert Shannon and staff were requested by the board to obtain a meeting with the pilot board. Albert never obtained the meeting and never stated who he contacted or how the meeting was denied.

Unfortunately to prove the letter is within the bylaws and authority of the chairman of the port board would require the newspaper to ask the PORT ATTORNEY that simple pertinent question.

Man up Peter Simon, Albert Shannon, Richard Devries and get your apology over with before the new port director arrives and has to deal with petty arguments!

Kitty Allen

[thumbup]

Ron Binkley

Tell it like it is Charlotte. The new port director needs to start his job on a clean slate. All the other members need to let him do it his way. His way has to be better than is going on now.

Jarvis Buckley

Ms. Charolette, speaks the truth.

Kitty Allen

[thumbup]

Gary Miller

Sounds like there are two many people involved who think they are more important than they actually are. The 'chain of command' is a list of the pecking order. Some don't want to know where they are on the chain of command or pecking order because it would reduce their opinion of themselves.

Charlotte O'rourke

The chain of command is fairly simple. The board, which is at the top of the organizational chart sets policy and provides oversight, and the port director implements that policy and provides management of day to day operations.

Two separate distinct functions. The port board recently hired a new port director, and I’m hoping the board squabbling stops before he gets here.

It is a perfectly legitimate function of the finance committee to ask questions on checks under “accept check register report”.

But, it is not acceptable to blindside the other board members by withholding information that you had staff generate for discussion, discuss November checks or invoices that aren’t on the register, falsely state that the port director never heard of an issue, and not posting the policy topic on legal expenses that you clearly know IN ADVANCE of the meeting that two members (a quorum) of a committee want to discuss. Just post the POLICY topic clearly for discussion.

In other words, don’t use a generic “check register report” to circumvent the spirit of the open meetings act and to score political points because you are MAD about meetings to be held at city hall. DON’T use the excuse that the amounts of legal expenses were way out of WHACK for September and October - only $121 for November. Personally, I think November legal fees would be higher because of the port director search, and other issues.

Just my opinion ....

Jarvis Buckley

I have read Charlottes comments for years. Most I agreed with some I didn't . I think it is time she throw her hat in the ring for city council, when the opportunity arises. She is very knowledgable, extremely articulate,
No one can claim she doesn't love Galveston. What a great addition to city council........ Just my thoughts!

Charlotte O'rourke

Thank you Jarvis. I appreciate the comments but am not interested in any activity other than keeping my grandkids. It is much more interesting and less stressful than politics.

I do listen to the meetings of the city, Park and Wharves Boards as well as read the minutes, CAFRs and audits of each. They have tough jobs and I appreciate their service.

The East End has had some really good representatives in the past and I think Frank Maceo is doing a job job for our District 3.

It is impossible to agree with everyone on everything, but it’s important to listen to the other side and try not to question motives.

However, it was impossible to do so in this scenario as Finance Committee Chair Albert Shannon stated the port director should know about the legal requests and Peter Simon denied knowing about this project until October bills.

Ms. Beeton said the legal request happened in the Executive Committee of which the port director is a member.

So, if the interim port director had issues with the project, he knew this in October if any bills in September and he could have posted the topic to ask questions and get board direction at October’s meeting ..... or November’s or December’s meetings instead of blind-siding Trustee Beeton and other board members during the Finance Committee meeting.

The Executive Committee was created to gather information and create reports for financial and strategic analysis. These reports and analysis would go to the full board for a vote.

Of course, Peter Simon may have also been blind-sided or had a glitch in his memory or ??

Regardless, Shannon and Devries shouldn’t take the moral high ground for being kept out of the loop when they chastise Beeton while the information is being deliberately withheld from the board during the UNPOSTED discussion.

You gotta love irony .... hopefully the board will work this out as overall the board is doing a great job.

Have a Happy New Year!

[happybirthday]

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