POINT COMFORT – The Calhoun Port Authority went into a closed session for about an hour Wednesday during its monthly meeting to discuss the employment and role of David Knuckey, its director of engineering.
Knuckey, who was hired in 2012 as the port’s first engineering director, left the closed session for the last 15 minutes. He said he has notified Port Director Charles Hausmann of his intentions to retire at the end of the year.
“I probably will be coming back, working part-time in some form or fashion,” he said. “We have a number of irons in the fire that I would like to see to fruition and Charles would too ... They (the board members) haven’t decided exactly how it is going to work out, but I do plan on at least working part-time.”
Questions about how Knuckey landed his job were raised to the Advocate in April by a licensed engineer in Texas, and candidates who challenged former board chairman Randy Boyd in the last election.
The engineer reviewed a transcript of testimony that Knuckey made in support of Boyd for a breach of contract lawsuit prior to his hire, and expressed concerns about the ethics of the process.
Wednesday’s session did not result in any action from the board, which also discussed behind closed doors commercial information that the board has received from a possible business opportunity.
Last month, the board voted to reject a bid from RLB Contracting Inc. to dredge the port’s berthing areas and instead pay the Army Corps of Engineers its proposed bottom line for the work, which would save several hundred thousands of dollars.
But after the vote, the Corps told the port that the option no longer stood because bidding was opened to the public for the same scope of work.
The board approved a message of agreement on Wednesday with the Corps, after the federal agency said it would include the dredging bid option in the Matagorda Ship Channel Maintenance Dredging Contract for the 2020 fiscal year.
Port Director Charles Hausmann said retaining the channel’s current depth is essential because the economic viability of a port is dependent on regular dredging. The dredging cycle for the 2018 fiscal year was completed last month, which added an additional two feet of draft.
“Well we’re at minus-35 (feet) now for vessels, so we’ve got the depth their now,” he said. “We don’t want to be the ones who are the limiting factor on the channel once that FY2020 goes out.”
The board approved disbursement and transfers of all funds for October, as well as committee conference attendance for four board members, which were paid $250 for attending either a real estate or audit meeting.
Tony Holladay, board secretary, was paid for attending a property closure meeting in August as part of his role on the real estate committee. Board member Luis De La Garza is also on that committee and attended, though he did not accept payment for the meeting.
Board chairman J.C. Melcher and board members Johnny J. Perez and Jay Cuellar accepted payment for an audit committee meeting to review the 2018 fiscal year audit that was prepared by Harrison, Waldrop & Uherek, LLP and presented to the board on Wednesday.
The board also considered a five-year contract with Rick Maldonado and Associates, a lobbyist that the port has used since 2001.
Maldonado’s contract with the port expires at the end of 2019. He requested a payment increase from $80,000 to $100,000 annually for five years, starting next year.
The only raise he has received was five years ago, when his payment increased from about $68,000 to $80,000, Hausmann said during the meeting.
Cuellar requested that the board authorize the port director and board chairman, Hausmann and Melcher, to negotiate and approve a raise for the lobbyist that does not exceed $20,000 “instead of just writing a check.”
That request was approved and the board did not vote on the five-year contract, which the board plans to renew.
“Rick is so familiar with our projects and he has been doing this for so long for us that he is very much embedded with us,” Hausmann said.