George F. Talin, a wealthy tire dealer active in charitable and civic organizations, was appointed Tuesday to a six-year term on the powerful Harbor Commission and will replace veteran Commissioner Richard Wilson next month.
The City Council unanimously confirmed Mayor Ernie Kell’s nomination of Talin as one of five directors of the semiautonomous Port of Long Beach, the West Coast’s largest.
It also appointed millionaire developer C. Robert Langslet to a second term on the commission, which handles a $150-million annual budget, almost equal to the funds managed directly by the council itself.
Kell, who had originally favored Westside businessman Joel Friedland for Wilson’s seat, said he selected Talin ahead of several other applicants because of his community involvement, business experience and financial independence, and because he was supported by a majority of the council.
Praised by Harwood
Even Councilman Warren Harwood, Friedland’s strongest supporter, lauded Talin for “a fine reputation and proven business skill.”
But Harwood said he continues to believe that bankers on the commission should bear an extra burden of financial disclosure because of possible hidden conflicts of interest.
Talin, 56, is a founder and major shareholder of the National Bank of Long Beach, commission President James Gray is president and chief executive officer of locally owned Harbor Bank, and Wilson is a large shareholder and legal counsel for Harbor Bank.
“Banking regulations shield from public scrutiny confidential banking relationships,” Harwood said in a statement to the council Tuesday evening. “I’m sure most local banks do serve harbor tenants. I’m concerned at the lack of sufficient background and financial information.”
Harwood said he had asked Kell if more financial information about Talin could be obtained before confirmation, but had received none. Harwood also said he was “worried” about commissioners soliciting campaign contributions from harbor tenants. Wilson has acknowledged doing that in supporting a council opponent of Harwood in 1982.
In response, Kell said he had handled the Talin nomination in the same way as previous appointments to the Harbor Commission.
Points ‘Well Taken’
“Mr. Harwood’s points are well taken,” he added. “But if we are going to deal with those points, we should deal with them separately in the future.”
In an interview, Talin said he would resign as vice chairman of the board of the National Bank of Long Beach and sever all other ties with the bank if the relationship creates problems.
“At the last bank board meeting I made it known that if the city attorney felt I would have a definite conflict of interest I would tender my resignation to the bank board,” said Talin. “I don’t want to create any problems and I don’t perceive it being a problem at all.”
A review of clients at the Bank of Long Beach showed no major port businesses, said Talin. “We are extremely clean of any conflict of interests,” he said.
Gray and Wilson have said much the same thing and have offered to make their bank’s accounts available for review by an impartial third party if that were legally possible.
Since moving to Long Beach in 1967, Talin has built Talin Tire Inc. into a 13-outlet, 200-employee regional tire service-and-sales business.
“I have been in the tire business, which is very competitive, for 32 years,” said Talin. “I have been in the banking business for about 10 years, and it is so competitive it makes the tire business look like a game of marbles. I feel that those experiences will assist me in being a good harbor commissioner because the harbor business is also highly competitive.”
Talin said his work with several local civic and government groups, including Scouting, boys clubs, the symphony, light opera and hospital boards, have given him “background as to the type of vitamins, the energies, that make this city run.” That will also help him as commissioner, he said.
Reputation as Expert
Wilson, 56, a corporate attorney and three-time president of the Harbor Commission, leaves after 12 years with a reputation as an expert in harbor matters.
Several of his clients are maritime businesses, and he has been intimately involved in major port developments, including the financial salvaging of the Queen Mary.
He pushed strongly for the Sohio oil transfer station and an international coal terminal, both of which fell through in the face of public concern about environmental pollution. And he has been a longtime supporter of a World Trade Center, which has evolved into a $450-million project with construction scheduled to begin in January.
Wilson left the commission Monday, noting at his last meeting “the continued attacks on the port’s near autonomy,” but its enormous success in surpassing the Port of Los Angeles in tonnage handled during the last decade. “On the day of my retirement, the port will have $110 million in the bank,” he said.
A harbor commissioner is paid $50 a meeting, with a maximum $250 monthly stipend. Among the job’s perquisites is foreign travel on trade missions at least a couple of times a year.