Coupeville port sued for wrongful termination

Citing a state whistle-blower law, the former executive director for the Port of Coupeville is seeking damages in a wrongful-termination claim.

Oak Harbor attorney Chris Skinner sent a tort claim to the port district Friday on behalf of Forrest Rambo, seeking nearly $120,000 in damages. Rambo alleges he was fired because he questioned the legality of the port’s harbormaster also being a paying tenant of the port-owned Coupeville Wharf.

“(Rambo) attempted to determine, through the port’s legal counsel and through other resources and inquiries, whether the harbormaster has a conflict of interest serving as a salaried port employee while simultaneously operating — and working regular hours — at her private gift shop business,” the claim states.

Rambo was fired by the port in September 2016 in a 2-1 vote by the board. He had served less than one year of his three-year contract.

Commissioners John Mishasek and William Bell voted to fire Rambo while then-board-president Mike Diamanti opposed the vote. Diamanti later resigned from the board.

Rambo alleges his termination was an act of retaliation in response to his “continuous efforts” to get an answer out the port’s attorney.

“In executive session, I said, ‘If we’re not going to get a response, I’m going to go to the state and file a whistle-blower complaint,’” Rambo said. “At the next meeting, after an executive session, they fired me.”

Mishasek said his decision came down to Rambo’s lack of organization and attention to detail. Bell said his decision was based on financial concerns. Mishasek did not return requests for comment on the lawsuit, and Bell said he will “no longer entertain conversations about Rambo’s termination.”

Jan Marc Jouas, interim executive director for the port, confirmed that the port received the tort claim Friday and hadn’t yet had an opportunity to discuss the lawsuit with the port attorney.

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