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Bozeman: Port must earn public’s trust

Port of Bremerton Chief Executive Officer Cary Bozeman declared Tuesday that earning the public’s trust is the port’s “most urgent priority,” and vowed to become the “most transparent agency in the state of Washington.”

To build that trust, Bozeman told staff and commissioners at the latest board meeting July 14 the port should embark on a seven-step action plan that includes meeting with the public, aggressively seeking financial stability and resolving any issues surrounding the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) project.

“The port pledges a culture of openness, with transparency as a core value,” Bozeman said, adding he believed the port’s recent decision to formally announce the names of people who made public information requests of the port at each meeting should be immediately reversed.

“The last thing we want to do is intimidate people genuinely seeking information,” he said, adding he intends to have open government ombudsman Tim Ford of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office provide free training to both staff and board members on public disclosure obligations.

“The port intends to go beyond the legal requirements and fully embrace the spirit, as well as the letter, of the law,” he said. After Bozeman’s announcement, the board decided not to read the public records request report listed as an information item on the meeting’s agenda.

Within the next three months, Bozeman said the port will host three community meetings, one in each district, which he called “Port 101” meetings. They will feature presentations by staff on the workings of the port and include “open-ended” question-and-answer sessions.

Bozeman also declared the port will not “hide or run away” from its harshest critics, but invite them to “meet personally with the CEO to express their concerns and their suggestions on how to earn their trust. The CEO pledges to listen carefully and engage them honestly.”

Rocky Point resident Kathleen Seamans, who has previously criticized the port for what she described as a less-than-welcoming attitude toward public comments, commended Bozeman for his presentation.

“Thank you very, very much for paying attention to what the public has been saying,” she said. “And thank you, commissioners, for hiring someone who seems to have a good idea of what the public wants.”

As to the port’s financial situation, Bozeman said it was “teetering on the edge of instability,” and we need to get “a handle on our spending and turn our business ventures around” to become “a trustworthy steward of public funds.”

Bozeman said the port’s marinas should be “profit centers,” and the port should be moving away from “using tax dollars to sustain the general fund and instead using those tax dollars to build infrastructure.”

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