With a surprise vote and no public discussion, the Port of Coupeville extended yet another contract with the private Greenbank Farm Management Group.
The motion to extend the contract, at a yearly cost to taxpayers of $49,950, was made by Commissioner Marshall Bronson and seconded by Commissioner Michael Diamanti. Commissioner Benye Weber and members of the public were blind-sided by the move. Nothing on the agenda indicated a motion or vote would take place and both occurred after the opportunity for public comment had passed.
Diamanti is filling out the term of Commissioner Laura Blankenship who resigned from the port after accusing Bronson and the port’s executive director, Jim Patton, of “backroom scheming” to benefit the management group.
The $49,950 agreement was the second contract with the management group to be extended past its expiration date. The first was the lease, which required no payment to the port and allowed the management group to keep the money from rentals of port property — the café, offices and shops. Had the lease been allowed to expire, a holdover clause provided for the port to collect $10,000 in “monthly rent” from the management group. By extending the lease, the port passed on the option of collecting this money.
Bronson’s and Diamanti’s recent move to extend the management services agreement, in addition to the lease, was the final thumbing of the nose at an eight-member Executive Planning Group that unanimously recommended against renewal of the two contracts. Those eight citizens, including myself as chairperson, were appointed by the port to evaluate the management group and make recommendations for transitioning to a new arrangement for management of Greenbank Farm. After six months of interviews and research, all of us, including the three members appointed by Bronson, recommended against renewal of the two contracts. We felt that the contracts did not serve the interests of taxpayers. Both would not have expired until March 31, 2014. Now they have been extended until June 2015.
Bronson and Diamanti have locked the port and taxpayers into a contract with the management group well into the future and conveniently, before this next election.