Port commissioner accused of acting 'above the law'

Port commissioner accused of acting 'above the law'
MANCHESTER, Wash. -- State wildlife officials say a Port of Manchester commissioner is breaking shoreline protection laws and putting sensitive fish at risk, and neighbors say it's not the first time he's done it.

Commissioner Jim Strode is facing a criminal charge for allegedly directing a backhoe to move a log onto Pomeroy Beach. That's illegal without a proper construction permit, which the Port of Manchester didn't have.

"My neighbors and myself would never dare to not get a permit to work on our shoreline. Why should the port be exempt?" said Manchester resident David Kimble.

A state Fish and Wildlife incident report says Strode admitted moving the log, but got very agitated and threatened the officers, saying he had "connections."

Wildlife Sgt. Ted Jackson said biologists know the area is important for spawning surf smelt.

"Surf smelt are very important to our ecosystem, to the fish in Puget Sound, so they're very concerned about protecting it," he said.

The port is accused of not just stacking the logs, but chaining them in place. And it's not the first time Fish and Wildlife has had problems on the beach.

The state already warned the port at least twice that its actions were in violation of law.

"The intent is to keep this safe and open for the public to use," said port contract administrator Dennis O'Connell.

O'Connell said they've been working on a permit for over a year, but the only records he offered up as proof were from the past four months, after Strode was caught on camera.

Strode is now facing criminal misdemeanor charges for violating shoreline protection laws. His first court appearance is scheduled for next month.