Thursday, September 26, 2013

Port Manatee's problems aren't going away

Under normal circumstances, news that a corporate communications manager had been let go would not merit more than a passing glance.
Not in the case of Julie Yeh.
Yeh happened to be the spokesperson for Port Manatee, which you may have noticed has been making headlines the last few months and not all of them good.
To revisit:
  • First there was the June 11 arrest of port employee Robert B. Armstrong, who was fired and charged with stealing thousands of dollars of port property.
  • Two weeks later, Robert J. Armstrong, his father and the port's No. 2 man, was fired and charged with a single count as an accessory after the fact after returning said stolen property to the port.
  • Then on Sept. 27 Carlos Buqueras, the port's executive director, was arrested on a domestic battery charge.
So when word got out that another port executive had been fired, Julie Yeh's name was not the one the public probably had in mind.
Her termination was a "performance-based decision," was the official reason rendered.
Given the roiling waters surrounding Port Manatee management these days, pardon me if I take that explanation with a dose of salt.
It just so happens Yeh alleged in a June letter to Buqueras she'd been "illegally bullied and intimidated" by the elder Armstrong,  when he was still port deputy executive director and chief financial officer.
That couldn't have something to do with her unceremonious exit, could it?
Can't have someone in her position making allegations about cover-ups and how the elder Armstrong bullied others into looking the other way when it came to junior's shenanigans.
Naturally, Armstrong denies it.
Well, it'd be one thing if this was the first time we've heard accusations about a "hostile work environment." improper behavior by superiors and so forth.
But it's not.
A woman named Jill VanderPol filed a similar complaint with port management last winter.
She eventually resigned.
Her job?
Port communications manager.
A coincidence?
I think not, especially viewed in the context of the series of events preceding it.
Sacking the messenger doesn't alleviate the growing perception something is wrong with the culture of Port Manatee's administration.
This just made it worse.

1 comment:

  1. Just wondering how Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who leads the Port Authority board, isn't mentioned? Or Dave Sanford, the port's interim chief of staff, Sanford that signed Yeh's termination letter. In particular Whitmore who responded in previous media articles with an attitude of "it's been going on for years." HUH & HMM!!