Lawmakers raise concerns over Port chief's side job
A letter signed by 13 state legislators questions whether Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani's new position as a director of Expeditors International creates a conflict of interest.
Seattle Times business reporter
A group of state legislators is questioning whether Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani's new sideline job -- as a director of logistics company Expeditors International -- represents a conflict of interest.
In a letter to the Port Commission released Friday afternoon, the 13 lawmakers, all King County Democrats, said the commission ought to look more closely at potential ethical issues raised by Yoshitani's appointment to Expeditors' board.
"It appears to the public that Mr. Yoshitani may directly and personally benefit by giving Expeditors' customers a competitive advantage over other Port of Seattle customers," the letter states. "[A]s Port CEO he has the power to prioritize his personal profit over the public mission of the taxpayer-supported Port of Seattle."
Seattle-based Expeditors, which helps its customers organize cargo shipments worldwide, announced two weeks ago that Yoshitani would be joining its board.
As a director, Yoshitani will be paid $30,000 annually plus $1,000 each day he attends board meetings or performs operational reviews, according to Expeditors' most recent director-compensation policy. He also is entitled to receive $200,000 in restricted Expeditors stock each year.
Yoshitani makes nearly $367,000 a year as Port CEO.
The letter also noted that, though the commission is responsible for supervising Yoshitani, it "did not publicly review or approve the CEO's outside employment, leaving that decision to one of the CEO's subordinates ... We are concerned about the precedent this sets for public officials, as well as the message this sends to Expeditors' competitors, their customers and other Washington Ports."
Zack Hudgins, D-Seattle, said he and other legislators are concerned about accountability.
"The Port is a great economic engine; we want it to run well, and we want everybody at the Port to be focused on trying to generate jobs and prosperity in our area," Hudgins said. "If Tay is on another board, if he's got potential conflicts of interest ... then that could harm the Port and harm the region."
Hudgins said taxpayers could "get caught in a bad spot" because "Expeditors International and the Port of Seattle have different missions," adding: "The Port Commission should look at this very closely."
Port Commission President Gael Tarleton said in a note to Hudgins that the body would formally respond to the lawmakers' letter next week.
Hudgins acknowledged that the Legislature has little direct leverage over the Port.
"Right now probably the most I can do is send a letter and try to raise concern about this," he said. "The Legislature could take up legislation if it gets to be a bigger problem."
Seattle Times staff reporter Emily Heffter contributed to this report.
Drew DeSilver: 206-464-3145 or firstname.lastname@example.org