Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Mayor named in CIA lawsuit; Fired administrator seeking $100K


March 31, 2011

Haines Borough Mayor Jan Hill demanded police chief Gary Lowe arrest Chilkoot Indian Association administrator Jim Carnahan at the tribal office last July, Carnahan alleges in a breach of contract lawsuit being heard in U.S. District Court.

Hill was serving as president of the tribe at the time. Carnahan was at the end of five apparently rocky months at the helm of the local tribe.

Both Hill and Carnahan this week declined comment on the matter, citing advice from attorneys. Police chief Lowe said he responded to a call at the tribal office. "There was never any occasion where a person identified themselves as an officer of the borough and requested action by me," he said.

Carnahan’s 12-page suit filed in January includes numerous claims about Hill, and by other CIA board members Jack Smith Jr. and Pat Philpott, including that Hill had "shunned" Carnahan, that she held meetings with staff behind his back and told staff they could ignore him.

The tribe, Hill, Smith and Philpott are listed as defendants. Juneau attorney Paul Dillon, who is representing the defendants, in February denied virtually all of Carnahan’s 57 claims and requested a jury trial.

Carnahan’s suit also alleges that Hill ordered him to "take action that would have benefited the borough, to the detriment of the Chilkoot Indian Association." Carnahan claims he declined to do so, angering Hill.

He claims Philpott threatened him and that Smith entered his office several times and swore and threatened him. Carnahan claims Smith received a "multimillion dollar, sole-source contract" with the tribe and had overcharged it.

Smith declined comment this week. A phone message left at Philpott’s local number was not returned.

Besides breach of contract, Carnahan is seeking damages in excess of $100,000 for assault, emotional distress and interference with economic advantage.

On March 17, Dillon sought dismissal of the case on the grounds that the tribe has sovereign immunity with regard to Carnahan’s claims.

"The conduct alleged to have been committed by defendants Smith, Hill and Philpott occurred while each was acting in his or her official capacity and within the scope of his or her authority as a member of the tribal council," Dillon wrote. "Defendants CIA, Smith, Hill and Philpott are therefore all immune from the suit under the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity," he wrote.

The controversy surrounding Carnahan slowed progress on tribal projects, acting tribal administrator Dave Berry said this week.

Berry said things have improved at the tribe.

"The CIA’s programs are up and running. We’re providing services to our tribal members and we’re continuing to look forward to the future," Berry said.

Hill has since resigned her position as tribal president.