A contentious dispute among harbor commissioners has broken out at the Port of Long Beach in recent weeks, with one commissioner firing accusations of favoritism at two of his colleagues over the port’s future relocation of its headquarters.
Earlier this month, the Long Beach Business Journal reported
that Long Beach Harbor Commissioner Tom Fields alleged his fellow commissioner Doug Drummond slandered him and another commissioner, Nick Sramek, in an Aug. 21 closed door session about the relocation from the current administration building, which has been seismically unsafe.
According to the reports, Drummond alleged that Fields and Sramek voted to move the port’s headquarters to Long Beach’s World Trade Center as part of a sweetheart deal, outlining four allegations that also involved former city and port officials.
In response Fields wrote to Long Beach’s mayor, city attorney, city prosecutor and the attorney assigned to the port of his claims, requesting they investigate Drummonds accusations.
The accusations are emblematic of a divisive commission, said John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, which represents the interests of most major shipping lines and terminal operators in California and Washington state ports.
“The ongoing success of the Port of Long Beach, a vital economic asset to the region and the nation, is now threatened by petty local politics,” McLaurin wrote in an op-ed piece for the Long Beach Business Journal
, which he shared this week with American Shipper
. “It seems there are local leaders who fail to understand the importance of maintaining the positive reputation of a well-working port.”
He not only bemoaned the charged atmosphere, but also wondered why Drummond, a former police officer, chose to air the allegations in a meeting rather than notifying law enforcement agencies to conduct an investigation. McLaurin also dinged the City of Long Beach for displaying indifference to the rancorous atmosphere.
“The charges and the resulting silence means petty politics are jeopardizing the operations of one of the world’s premier ports, making it far more difficult to have open and honest discussions about how best to maintain its edge in an increasingly competitive global marketplace,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, two Long Beach City Councilmembers this week took up the issue, putting it on the agenda for their Oct. 2 meeting. - Eric Johnson