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Tracyton Port back on track

The Port of Tracyton was beset with strife and controversy for years.

But it appears to be back on track now — minus the political struggles.

The port has been working on creating a budget and aligning goals over the past three months — ever since acerbic former port commissioner Walt Fitzpatrick was forced off the board in August.

“I’m very excited about what we can do,” said interim port president Gary Keenan. The port has jurisdiction over a broken-down boat launch, beach front, and can spend money on such things as upgrading or acquiring the Tracyton Community Center.

Fitzpatrick was the only port commissioner for several months after two other commissioners relinquished their seats. He named himself port president and eventually cancelled all meetings.

Ultimately, the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners appointed volunteer Gary Keenan as interim port commissioner to create a quorum with Fitzpatrick, so the two could appoint a third and last board member, or at least work on port business.

However, Fitzpatrick refused to recognize Keenan as legally appointed, and refused to work with him. William Mooney of Tracyton was then appointed by county commissioners, and Mooney and Keenan voted Fitzpatrick off the board on a technicality — two months of unexcused absences from meetings. Tracyton resident Pat Wright was then picked as interim commissioner to replace Fitzpatrick at District 3.

The three-member port board is one of the smallest voting districts in the county. There are now three “appointed” commissioners on the board. All three are therefore on the Nov. 4 ballot for confirmation by the electorate.

Jim Brophy has surfaced as a challenger to Wright. Keenan and Mooney are running unopposed.

“When I applied ... I was not aware (Wright) was already appointed as interim and had signed up for the ballot,” said Brophy. “My only reason to apply was to fill the slot if no one else wanted it. I’m actually a supporter of Pat’s and should I win, I’ll step down in favor of his appointment. I suspect he’ll win anyway.”

Brophy is a retired pilot who started in the Air Force as a navigator and pilot, then went into the private sector as a pilot for airlines and Hawaii Air Ambulance. He opposes dissolving the port, fearing it would then be absorbed by the neighboring Port of Bremerton.

Fitzpatrick’s stated intent shortly after his election in November 2001, was to get elected to the port to dissolve the district from within. The port was created in the 1920s, but has been inactive periodically. Fitzpatrick asserted that a non-active government body was a waste of taxpayers’ money.

While on the board, Fitzpatrick called and e-mailed county, state and federal officials, complaining he was being railroaded off the port and that there were criminal conspiracies afoot.

Rep. Norm Dick’s (D-Belfair) local office in Bremerton believed Fitzpatrick’s behavior had became “threatening,” according to Dicks’ spokesman George Behan. A staffer confirmed that a one-year restraining against Fitzpatrick had been obtained on Oct. 27 in Kitsap County District Court.

For months, Fitzpatrick had repeatedly contacted Secretary of State Sam Reed, State Attorney General Christine Gregoire and State Auditor Brian Sonntag. Officials from those departments said they told him his problems were not under their jurisdiction. A 600-page criminal complaint was lodged by Fitzpatrick earlier this year against 20 or so officials associated with the port. It was thrown out as frivolous by the Jefferson County prosecutor.

Since he left the port, however, Fitzpatrick has been hard to locate.

Kitsap Prosecutor Russ Hauge said Fitzpatrick visited his office last week. Hauge was out, so Fitzpatrick left his card.

“Funny thing, though,” said Hauge in a later phone interview. “He’d crossed out his address on the card.”

Recently, a mailed request from Keenan for return of port records was returned by the Post Office marked “Unclaimed.”

Fitzpatrick’s phone has been disconnected. He could could not be reached for comment.

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