Shipping Association Calls For Independent Inquiry Over Drummond Allegations
Harbor Commission President Wants New Code Of Conduct In Light Of Controversy
By Joshua H. Silavent - Staff Writer
September 10, 2012 – The Long Beach Harbor Commission met earlier today for the first time since unsubstantiated allegations of improper dealings regarding the Port of Long Beach administration’s relocation were reported in the Business Journal September 5.
Commission President Susan Wise acknowledged the controversy at the start of the meeting.
“The last meeting of the harbor commission ended with a closed session in which there was a very unfortunate incident,” she said.
During that session, Commissioner Doug Drummond accused fellow Commissioner Thomas Fields and other city officials of illegally conspiring to orchestrate the sale or lease of the One World Trade Center (WTC) building located in Downtown Long Beach for the benefit of the Inco Company.
For all intents and purposes, relocation sites for the port administration offices – which are currently housed in a building deemed structurally unsafe, especially in the event of an earthquake – have been narrowed to WTC, the 400 Oceangate/11 Golden Shore buildings, and a building formerly occupied by Boeing located at the Long Beach Airport.
In an August 21 letter sent to Long Beach city officials, Fields outlined what he called slanderous accusations by Drummond, the contents of which can be found in the latest print issue of the Business Journal and online at lbbusinessjournal.com.
Wise said she has asked the city attorney to work with the commission to develop a code of conduct and provide information about the tools at their disposable to deal with conflict among staff.
John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, was visibly angry when he spoke during the public comment portion of today’s meeting to address the controversy.
“Commissioner Drummond’s false accusations are an embarrassment to the port and the City of Long Beach,” McLaurin said. “They have no justification or place in governance. And they erode the confidence that the trade community has with the commission and undercuts the fine work of the port staff.”
McLaurin called on Drummond to issue a public apology to Fields and others. Fields told the Business Journal that Drummond had sent him a letter of apology after the story broke.
“And the port customers and trade community are owed a full explanation by Commissioner Drummond with regard to his unprofessional conduct,” McLaurin added.
Though a set of bylaws already prescribe codes of conduct for commissioners, McLaurin believes it must go further.
“The only thing lacking in this document is any kind of consequence for improper activity,” he said. “That’s something I think the city attorney’s office ought to look into.”
Moreover, McLaurin called for an independent body, free of ties to the city and port, be charged with investigating Drummond’s conduct “to produce facts, clear the air and put this incident behind us as quickly as we can.”
Jerry Neuman, an attorney representing Legacy Partners, owners of One World Trade Center, also spoke during public comment Monday to refute Drummond’s claims.
“I think it is appropriate and necessary to make clear that Legacy Partners has relied solely upon the public discourse in its pursuit of an opportunity with the Port of Long Beach,” he said. “It has participated in a manner in the process that the port has outlined and has solely done it from that perspective. It desires solely to be evaluated on the basis of not rumor or innuendo or undue pressure or any other mechanism by which a decision could be made outside of the public process, but merely through the efficacy and desire to see a fair process undertaken.”
The harbor department has budgeted about $6 million in the 2013 fiscal year for a possible interim relocation of the port administration offices. A permanent move and purchase of a site would require additional funding, said Dominic Holzhaus, principal deputy city attorney.
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