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Originally published June 29, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 29, 2007 at 2:04 AM

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Report cites Port mistakes

An investigation by the Port of Seattle's Ethics Board found no violations of ethics policies or open-meetings laws by Port Commissioner...

Seattle Times staff reporter

An investigation by the Port of Seattle's Ethics Board found no violations of ethics policies or open-meetings laws by Port Commissioner Pat Davis or other port officials involved in preparing a lucrative severance package for former Port CEO Mic Dinsmore.

However, a seven-page report released Thursday did fault "mistakes, misjudgments and lack of communication" and cast a light on Dinsmore's role in negotiating his own retirement benefits "in which his self-interest is obvious."

The report also noted that Dinsmore's proposed severance would have substantially boosted the size of his state pension and allowed him to start collecting it three years earlier.

The controversy over the severance package erupted after it was revealed that Davis had signed off on an unusual plan to allow Dinsmore to collect an extra year of pay at his $339,841 annual salary.

Davis said other Port commissioners had agreed to the plan during a closed-door executive session, but some commissioners vehemently denied that.

Dinsmore retired this year and never received any of the disputed severance.

The new report suggests Port commissioners try to put the controversy behind them despite lingering arguments over what exactly happened.

" 'Agreeing to disagree' and focusing on the lessons from this most difficult experience may be the most positive thing to do," concluded the report, written by retired King County Superior Court Judge Terrence Carroll and John Strait, associate professor of law at Seattle University.

Despite the finding that no ethics rules were broken, the report led some Port commissioners to renew criticism of Dinsmore's behavior in maneuvering to increase his retirement benefits.

"His approach has not only tarnished his successful legacy, but has undermined the first several months of the new Port administration," Port Commissioner Bob Edwards said in a written statement demanding an apology from Dinsmore.

Port Commission President John Creighton said the report showed "serious bad judgment" by Dinsmore and Davis. While he accepted the report's findings of no ethics violations, Creighton said the Port should consider strengthening its ethics code.

Davis said the report proves she did nothing unethical. She said her only mistake was in not clearly communicating with her colleagues.

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"I would never damage the Port in any way. I have conducted myself with honor for 20 years and I think this investigation shows that," she said.

First elected in 1985, Davis is the longest-serving member of the five-person Port commission. She faces an effort to recall her from office due to the controversy.

The ethics report found it impossible to reconcile the different recollections among Port commissioners over whether Dinsmore's proposed severance was ever discussed. No written records existed of the closed-door meetings except for notes apparently written after the fact by Dinsmore.

The former Port chief had those notes placed in his personnel file, apparently to bolster his efforts to obtain higher pay and retirement packages, the report suggested.

The report recommended that future discussions of the Port CEO's salary or benefits be held in public sessions.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628

or jbrunner@seattletimes.com

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