Ted Fick, who resigned a week ago, speaks out after he had remained silent about his departure and a state audit that pointed to illegal payouts under his watch.
The former CEO of the Port of Seattle has denied some of the sharpest allegations made against him before his resignation last week, and said he largely blames the commissioners overseeing the Port for a pay bonus the state auditor has called illegal.
Ted Fick, saying he wanted to “clear the record and my good name,” on Monday issued his first public comments since resigning as the Port’s chief executive last week.
Fick resigned on Wednesday, and two days later the Port released a lengthy performance review that outlined how elected commissioners overseeing the agency had lost trust in him.
The review said Fick did not tell the commissioners he would benefit from a 7 percent one-time pay bonus handed out to employees until after they approved the pay bump in December 2015. The move netted Fick an extra $24,500 on top of his $350,000 salary.
The state auditor’s office last week said the pay bump, which totaled $4.7 million for nearly 650 nonunion employees, violated the state constitution because it wasn’t tied to any performance standards or goals.
In the performance review, the Port commissioners also chastised Fick for several other issues relating to integrity, from accepting gifts from Port partners to apparently steering business toward his father’s company. The commissioners also made mention of a sexual-harassment claim involving the CEO, said they were disappointed in how he dealt with a DUI charge and provided several anonymous quotes in the performance review slamming Fick.
Fick declined an interview but sent written comments to The Seattle Times outlining his response to most of the commissioners’ concerns.
Fick said the pay bonus he benefited from wasn’t his idea: According to him, then-commission Co-President Stephanie Bowman came up with the plan, which Fick later recommended and the board adopted. (Bowman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.)
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Fick did accept some blame for the pay plan, since he supported it, but said the commissioners “began to look for a scapegoat to deflect attention to me” after the auditor began asking questions.
He doesn’t think his pay increase should be characterized as secretive, since he revealed to commissioners that he received the bonus once board members started asking direct questions about it a few months after the vote. Previously, when the commissioners approved the bonuses, he told them that “all” nonunion employees would get the money, and Fick said that based on that, they should have been able to figure out that he would be among those getting the extra pay.
Fick says the extra pay wasn’t all gravy: Following the pay bump, the commission denied the CEO’s usual annual bonus last year, he says. In fact, he said he never got any annual bonuses mentioned in his contract during his 2½ years on the job.
Fick also denied a Port account that he helped steer business toward his father’s company. He said the Port never bought a $324 lubricant offered by his father, contrary to the Port’s assertion that the agency purchased the product. Fick said he only asked a Port manager who his father should talk to about a potential sale, and didn’t pressure his staff into buying anything.
And Fick said his decision to accept more than $1,000 in sports tickets and other gifts from Port partners did not violate the agency’s code of conduct and that each event had a legitimate business purpose.
“The Port’s business depends on good relationships between the Port and organizations working with the Port,” Fick said.
Lastly, Fick addressed a vague mention in his performance review of an apparent sexual-harassment complaint. The report didn’t explain the complaint but mentioned separately that Fick asked a woman who was working as a caterer for the Port for her phone number, which made her “very uncomfortable.”
Fick says it was all a misunderstanding, and that he was asking for the phone number of the caterer’s general manager “so that I could compliment a job well done.” He says the Port’s human-resources staff investigated and found no wrongdoing.
A Port spokesman did not respond to questions about Fick’s statement.