There has been mystery surrounding Ted Fick’s status since he first was away from the office more than a week ago in what was described as a “mutual” separation.
The CEO of the Port of Seattle has resigned amid a performance review, shortly after he was placed on administrative leave.
Ted Fick said in his resignation letter that he wanted to return to the private sector following 2½ years at the port. He offered to stay until the end of May, but the port decided to part ways immediately.
The port commission had been reviewing Fick’s performance in a series of closed-door meetings. He had been away from the port on paid administrative leave since last week for what the port described as “personnel issues.” Port Commission Chair Tom Albro said that decision to separate temporarily had been “mutual.”
Albro said the resignation was a surprise, and he declined to comment further about the circumstances regarding the departure. Neither Fick nor his attorney responded to requests for comment.
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Port commissioners, who voted 5-0 to accept Fick’s resignation during a hastily arranged special meeting on Thursday afternoon, tried to reassure the public that the port was well prepared to handle the change.
“I think we’re in a good place right now,” said Commissioner John Creighton. “A lot of good changes have been made in the last couple of years.”
Commissioner Fred Felleman added: “For those that might be concerned that we’re adrift — far from it.”
Chief Operating Officer Dave Soike, who had been leading the port while Fick was on leave, was named interim CEO. Officials said they will begin seeking a permanent replacement later this year. They quickly canceled a regular commission meeting set for Tuesday.
There has been mystery surrounding Fick’s status since he first was away from the office more than a week ago. Then last Thursday, the port sent employees an email announcing he was on leave “pending resolution of personnel issues,” but officials had declined to provide any additional information.
It came during a closed-door performance review by the commission, which began evaluating Fick last month. The commission didn’t expect to vote on Fick’s status until later this month, and his contract wasn’t set to expire until September.
“We don’t have all the details squared away,” Albro said. He hinted that officials may provide additional information on the departure later.
Fick had overseen a 2,000-employee operation that also includes Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, cruise-ship terminals and some local real estate. The 57-year-old Kirkland resident makes $350,000 per year and was the agency’s first CEO to came to the port from the private sector.
He was charged with DUI in April after driving home from a company retirement party on the Highway 520 bridge, when a Washington State Patrol trooper clocked him going 79 mph in a 50-mph zone, police said. When the arresting officer asked if he had been drinking, he responded by telling them he was the CEO of the port, according to his arrest report. Tests showed he had a blood alcohol content of 0.096, above the legal limit.
The case is still pending in court. Albro said the charges didn’t impact the commission’s thinking on whether Fick should stay.
Soike began as a junior engineer before advancing through both the maritime and aviation divisions. He holds an MBA from the University of Washington after getting his civil-engineering degree at Washington State University.
The port has had trouble steering clear of controversy at the top.
Fick’s predecessor, Tay Yoshitani, was criticized in 2012 for accepting a lucrative side gig on the board of Expeditors International, a global logistics company headquartered in Seattle. In 2008, two port managers resigned under pressure, and seven other high-ranking employees were disciplined for their role in fraudulent contracting practices. In 2013, a port commissioner resigned following problems that included misuse of port credit cards.
In his resignation letter, Fick noted some accomplishments at the port during his tenure: He said the agency had its strongest financial performance in its 105-year history last year, and that the airport is among the fastest growing in the nation for passenger traffic.
“The Port is well positioned for the future,” he said, “and I wish you all continued success.”