Internal dissension on the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners has port tenants concerned that the traditionally solid business reputation of the nation’s second-largest container port could be tarnished.
John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, minced no words about the possible harm the port could experience due to what he termed the “false accusations” made by commissioner Doug Drummond against two of his fellow commissioners.
Drummond had accused the commissioners of attempting to benefit illegally in a long-running issue about relocating the Port of Long Beach headquarters staff. The current building housing the port staff has been judged to be structurally unsound in earthquake-prone Southern California.
“Commissioner Drummond’s false accusations are an embarrassment to the port and city of Long Beach. They have no justification or place in governance, and they erode the confidence that the trade community has with this commission and undercut the fine work of port staff,” McLaurin told a regularly scheduled harbor commission meeting this week.
The PMSA represents shipping lines and terminal operators on the West Coast. McLaurin said his members have become increasingly concerned about reports of dissension among harbor commissioners in Long Beach. In an Aug. 29 commentary in the Journal of Commerce, he stated that commission meetings “are becoming more divisive, political and controversial.”
McLaurin said some commissioners are increasingly involved in day-today affairs at the port — matters he said should be handled by port staff. He accused some commissioners of “not merely setting policy, but directing and micromanaging staff activities.”
Commission President Susan Wise said Tuesday the commission appreciates the PMSA’s concern, and she is confident the commission will get through what she termed an unfortunate incident. “This won’t impact commerce at the port,” Wise said.
The commission is working with the Long Beach city attorney to develop a code of conduct for commissioners. Meanwhile, Wise said, the port and harbor commissioners have been meeting with shipping industry executives, developing a stronger presence overseas and participating in national and international maritime conferences.