- Reporters Desk
Long Beach — On Nov. 19, the Long Beach City Council voted 6-3, council members Al Austin, Steve Neil and Gerrie Schipske opposed, to remove Long Beach Harbor Commission President Thomas Fields from office — despite tremendous supporter showing at the meeting.
Fields, an advertising entrepreneur, had served on several city commissions before serving as a Harbor Commissioner.
Foster, who appointed Fields to the 6-year term in 2009, placed the removal of Fields on the meeting agenda Nov. 11, while Fields was out of the country, on a two-week trip around Asia with port executive staff. Foster questioned Fields’ port travel. Fields reportedly traveled spent more than $77,000,000 on eight overseas trips between Oct. 29, 2011 and June 1, 2013 — without considering that he also traveled more often on port-related matters.
In September, the city council limited harbor commissioners to $40,000 in travel spending, as a result. City Auditor Laura Doud is reviewing the 12 trips that the Budget Oversight Committee scrutinized.
Fields port travel was necessary to meet with customers, which are critical to maintaining and expanding port business, he said.
Fields reportedly claims that his removal attempts have more to do with his support of the relocation of the port’s headquarters, which was deemed unsafe in the event of an earthquake, to the WorldTradeCenter.
Another point of contention with the mayor is the selection process of a new executive director. The Port of Long Beach hasn’t had a permanent executive director since June, when Chris Lytle resigned after 18 months on the job.
Harbor Commission Vice President Nick Sramek will take Field’s post. Foster must appoint a new commissioner. He has yet to announce his choice on who will fill that seat, which must be approved by the city council. However, former finance director, Lori Ann Farrell, is reportedly a consideration. Farrell was the Long Beach’s controller in 2006 and was appointed as finance director in 2007. In 2010, she took a job with Huntington Beach as finance director. In 2011, she concurrently took on being a director on the Long Beach Transit Board.