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Duluth Seaway Port Authority executive director's pay increased

Vanta E. Coda II

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority's executive director is getting a 10 percent raise — about a third of what he asked for.

Commissioners on Wednesday approved a new contract for Vanta E. Coda II, which raises his pay from about $168,000 to about $185,000. Coda had asked for a bump to $217,000, which is the new maximum salary for that position allowed by the state.

The contract vote came after a closed session that, at 90 minutes, was longer than most regular port authority meetings.

Coda's contract takes effect "as soon as he signs it," Commissioner Ray Klosowski said, and lasts until Sept. 30, 2019. The executive director joined the port Oct. 1, 2013; this is his second contract.

The port authority had to ask the state to raise the executive director's salary cap to $217,000, since state law sets the ceiling of public agency positions at about $168,000 as of Jan. 1.

Many such requests are denied, Klosowski said, so a case was made to the Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner that included an analysis of high and low salaries for port directors on the Great Lakes.

Commissioners closed Wednesday's meeting to discuss the pay raise; closed sessions are allowed under state law for personnel matters.

A closed session was not planned as part of the published meeting agenda, however, though the port authority's attorney pointed to state statute that allows commissioners to close meetings for labor negotiations.

A different part of the law says public-notice requirements for closed meetings are the same as open meetings, however.

The port authority is a public agency and helps promote and coordinate trade through the Port of Duluth-Superior. Revenues come from sources such as leases, dockage fees, grants and a property tax levy in Duluth.

Commissioners on Wednesday voted to continue the port's levy, which at 0.01813 percent of taxable value costs the owner of a $150,000 home about $27 per year. The port expects about $1 million in revenue from the tax this year.

Brooks Johnson

Brooks covers business and the economy for the Duluth News Tribune.

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