Port of Friday Harbor addresses allegations

Following the receipt of a formal letter of complaint, the Port of Friday Harbor responded to allegations made by the letter’s author.

Jensen Marina tenant Maurice Liebman claimed that the port had recently imposed a security deposit on month-to-month leases. Liebman alleged that month-to-month leases are not part of RCW 53.08.085, which allows ports to charge the deposit on any tenant who resides at the property for more than a year.

“The Port of Friday Harbor legally and appropriately collects a one-month security deposit on all moorage accounts and has done so for decades,” Port of Friday Harbor Executive Director Todd Nicholson told the Journal. “The practice is recommended by the state auditor and is typical for most Washington ports.”

According to Nicholson, the deposit is equal to one month’s moorage plus leasehold tax. A leasehold tax is an expense in lieu of a property tax that is 12.84 percent of the rent, according to the Washington Department of Revenue. Nicholson explained that the security deposit on a 30-foot slip at the Friday Harbor Marina would be $330.60. A smaller slip would be less expensive and a larger slip would be more.

“If the moorage accounts are paid in full upon the customer vacating the slip the security deposit is returned,” Nicholson added. “Finally and most importantly, the Port manages substantial resources for the economic benefit of the entire community. It is financially prudent to require security deposits and to adjust fees for services to their actual cost or to keep pace with the local inflation index.”

Liebman invoked RCW 84.68.020 in his letter to the port, which states that if a levy of taxes for public revenue are deemed unlawful by the taxed person or entity, the taxee can outline the illegality of the tax in a formal letter. Upon providing the written complaint to the public entity, the taxed person or their representation can bring an action in superior or federal court. He has not filed a lawsuit against the Port of Friday Harbor regarding his allegations of financial mismanagement.

“I think it is important to also point out that but for the Port’s willingness to purchase, rebuild and pursue an environmental clean up of the facility, the island would have lost the only travel lift-served boatyard and all of the existing moorages at the Jensen Marina,” said Nicholson. He added that it was unlikely that a private investor would have been willing to pursue the redevelopment and that if they had, it would have been for the benefit of a smaller number of tenants with higher incomes.

“This effort has been for the singular purpose of long term jobs and economic benefit to islanders,” Nicholson said.