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Agency will pay wife of executive director for Korean language translation during phone calls, site visits

One of the most instrumental figures in helping bring Korean business investors to Columbia County hasn't been Port of Columbia County's executive director — but rather, his wife. SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - Sanghui Hayes, far right, listens and translates from English to Korean during a tour of port property offered to potential business investors from South Korea in early 2018. Hayes husband, Doug Hayes (center), is the current executive director of the port.

Sanghui Hayes, who speaks Korean fluently, has been the defacto liaison between port staff and businessmen from South Korea on at least two occasions. She's not a licensed interpreter, but has provided interpretation services to the port for months, aiding in phone conversations and in-person site visits between port executives and representatives from the Edwin Institute, a nonprofit organization in Korea that brings private industry and government organizations together for potential development opportunities.

On Wednesday, Sept. 12, port commissioners voted unanimously to pay Sanghui Hayes $27 per hour for her interpretation services, for a total amount not to exceed $7,500. Over the past year, she has logged 227 hours for interpretation services, port staff noted.

"I don't think we would be as far down the road with these entities that we're looking at, had it not been for her," Commissioner Chris Iverson said during a port meeting in August.

Doug Hayes, executive director of the port and Sanghui Hayes' husband, recused himself during Wednesday's discussion and all prior discussions about the matter.

"I want to note just for the record that this has not been requested by Sanghui or Doug," Larry Ericksen noted Wednesday. "This is something we saw as a gap and we wanted to take care of it."

During a previous discussion about the informal interpretation services, port commissioners noted they wanted to limit the scope of Sanghui Hayes' work to informal talks only.

"The Port will pay for the Informal Interpreter Services up to the point when formal negotiations begin, at that point the Port and the Edwin Institute will each hire their own, certified interpreters," the resolution approved Wednesday reads.

Commissioner Robert Keyser suggested all negotiations be done in English.

"I don't think we negotiate in Korean, period," Keyser said last month. "I think we negotiate a U.S. contract in English."

A hold-harmless agreement was also initiated with the Edwin Institute, the port's attorney noted.

Commissioner Mike Avent, who listened in to Wednesday's meeting by phone, said he was glad to see the port finally compensating Mrs. Hayes.

"It's been an inequity for long enough, and now we can take care of it," Avent said.

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