Harbor Boss Packs His Bags But Keeps His Job, For Now
Another closed-door session yields no action on dismissal, or on slander claim.
Thursday, July 26, 2001
Jim Stilwell has already cleaned the personal stuff out of his office. The embattled harbormaster and general manager of the Moss Landing Harbor District packed up his Dodge Durango last Wednesday night. The back of the SUV was filled with all the maritime certificates and seamanship licenses that used to hang on his walls, plus odds and ends like a canoe paddle--even a pair of ship propellers that were propped up at the foot of his desk.
He wasn''t fired that night and still hasn''t been. But he''s ready for the ax.
After a 90-minute closed-door session on Tuesday, July 24, the five harbor commissioners announced yet again that they had taken no action. Though he is still on the job, Stilwell tells the Weekly he will be working from home for a while.
"I''m just going to take some time off and go to some meetings and stuff," he says.
As reported in these pages ("Storm Flares in Moss Landing," July 19), Stilwell, facing a termination vote from the five-member Board of Harbor Commissioners, had countered with a $200,000 defamation claim. Based on a signed statement from a businessman with major leases in Moss Landing, Stilwell threatened to sue the district over allegations made by Harbor Commissioner Dennis Garmany.
In April, Garmany allegedly told Richard Deyerle that Stilwell took a "big bribe" from a building contractor with a project in the harbor. He also allegedly told Deyerle that Stilwell ordered oil to be poured down a sewage pipe. Neither Deyerle nor Garmany returned phone calls seeking comment.
"I have no idea where he [Garmany] comes up with something like that," Stilwell says. "I don''t see where anything I''ve done in the past or the recent past would generate that kind of thought process."
Stilwell denies the pollution accusation.
"I think he was misinformed on that," he says. "The only thing I can think of is an uninformed observer saw me and other people at the oil facility and misconstrued our actions."
Stilwell''s critics claim that he is insensitive and arrogant, and is pushing development plans that they feel are grandiose and risky. Some also claim that he can''t be trusted, and cite as evidence his recent job history. Stilwell had some trouble at his last harbor post, in the San Mateo County Harbor District in Half Moon Bay.
Moss Landing locals who oppose Stilwell believe he is responsible for the $18 million that the San Mateo district owes the state. Stilwell denies it, and so does one of his most steadfast critics on the San Mateo County Harbor District, Commissioner Sally Campbell.
Stilwell served on the San Mateo harbor commission from 1993 until 1995, when the general manager quit. Stilwell resigned from the commission and served as the interim general manager for 17 months.
Even though they did not get along at all, Campbell says Stilwell should not be blamed for the San Mateo district''s problems. She says the district was a mess before he got there.
Nonetheless she says, "He was tyrannical. He polarized everything."
Stilwell concedes that he did not get along with Campbell. "I just had a problem with Ms. Campbell''s lifestyle," he says.
Betty Stone, a former San Mateo Harbor District commissioner who says she''s a close friend of Stilwell''s, agrees that he had personality conflicts in Half Moon Bay.
She chalks many of the problems up to the circumstances under which he took his job. "It''s always difficult to have served as a commissioner then become an employee of the district," Stone says. "It would have been a difficult position for anyone to have been."
Stone says Stilwell was thought to have carried over some arrogance from his former career as a sea captain. "Candidly," she says, "that probably could have been a problem."
After announcing that no action had been taken at Wednesday''s meeting, Commissioner Russ Jeffries asked Commission President Jack Compton to resign from the board. Jeffries accused Compton of releasing to the press privileged information regarding Stilwell''s $200,000 claim.
"I think you violated the Brown Act by possibly releasing that information to the news without it being public information," said Jeffries.
Compton would not comment.
The possible dismissal of Stilwell has not been placed on any upcoming harbor commission agenda.
the Weekly Tally897 Percent by which Duke Energy''s net gains from trading electricity rose between 1999 and 2000. Duke owns four power plants in
California, including at Moss Landing.
--Source: source: Securities Exchange Commission