August 30, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 35

Financial disclosure language vexes assembly

A third and expected final public hearing on a proposed Haines Borough financial disclosure law for local leaders bogged down Tuesday when assembly member Debra Schnabel raised a list of issues, including changing the definition of “sources of income.”

Another change proposed for the meeting would have added real estate brokers to a list of professions that under the law would not be required to disclose, as sources of income, the names of clients who receive professional services. Certified public accountants, attorneys, health care providers, stockbrokers and financial advisors already are on the list.

Haines real estate broker and assembly candidate Jim Studley wrote to the borough Aug. 21 that he didn’t believe he was required to file financial disclosure “because I receive my money from my various owned companies and I have listed both of my companies that pay me my income and all of the other companies I operate and are involved.”

But the assembly didn’t get that far in its discussion. Members decided Schnabel’s recommendations required more consideration than the meeting provided and scheduled a committee meeting 5:30 p.m. Sept. 11 to address them. Final action could come when the assembly meets at 6:30 p.m. the same evening.

Assembly members have approved an October ballot measure asking borough voters to exempt them from State of Alaska disclosure rules, which they say are onerous. But arriving at a replacement law is proving challenging.

A change two weeks ago to remove a requirement for reporting total amounts of income from sources exceeding $5,000 was opposed by member Steve Vick, who said a $50,000 financial interest might pose more of a conflict than a $5,000 one.

Schnabel on Tuesday sought to remove retirement accounts and trusts from the list of income sources that must be reported. Retirement accounts were removed but trusts were left in, following concerns by member Joanne Waterman.

“I think there are trusts that are local...that could come into question,” Waterman said.

Member Norm Smith called the changes an “11th-hour nitpick” of the ordinance and suggested the entire ordinance be dissolved.

But Mayor Stephanie Scott described the ordinance as a “middle ground” after assembly rejection of her proposal to rely solely on borough code of ethics language. That language prohibits members from deliberating on matters in which they have a “substantial personal or financial interest.”

Schnabel also objected to requirements for listing real property in the Haines Borough, natural resource leases and public contracts, saying that is all already public information.

Schnabel said her biggest objection was the “sources of income” definition that required a person self-employed in a corporation to identify clients or customers that pay into the corporation. She recommended the assembly substitute a definition from the Kodiak Borough that requires only identification of the corporation as the income source.

Schnabel said her reading of the borough’s proposed ordinance would require local corporations that are, for example, grocery stores and lumberyards, to list all their clients, she said.

Borough clerk Julie Cozzi told the assembly they have until the mid-October municipal election canvass date to establish the ordinance.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the assembly introduced an ordinance prohibiting “verbal abuse, physical assaults and threats” of the harbormaster and giving the harbormaster authority to evict harbor users who commit violations.

Abusive behavior toward harbormasters has been a continuing issue. A previous attempt to address the matter by making the harbormaster a “peace officer” of the borough was resisted by the police department.

The language of the ordinance was drafted by the borough attorney and is an effort to be explicit in code about authority that probably already is established, Mayor Scott said after the meeting.

Assembly members asked that ordinance language include a process for appealing a harbormaster decision.

The assembly also adopted an ordinance allowing it to place resolutions on its meetings’ consent agendas. The consent agenda includes items that are approved typically without public discussion.

The ordinance allows members of the public to request resolutions be removed from the consent agenda for discussion. The consent agenda is set by the Mayor and clerk and must be approved by the assembly.

A report from manager Mark Earnest said that a trial involving a lawsuit by a family whose son drowned near the Port Chilkoot Dock is scheduled to begin Sept. 24.

The assembly also advanced to a second public hearing a proposed water and sewer rate increase. It would increase the monthly payment for flat rate residential customers by 3 percent.

The increase is needed to cover rising operating costs and inflation, according to the borough. The changes include reducing to $45 an earlier committee recommendation to raise the seasonal turn on/turn off fee to $80. Residential and commercial monthly charges would increase 40 cents per service.

The assembly also approved Mayor Stephanie Scott’s appointment of Robert Miller to the borough planning commission, to fill a seat vacated by the departure of Roger Maynard. Miller is a 30-year Alaska resident and former Department of Transportation engineer who worked as a bridge and marine designer.

Other recent action by the assembly includes approval of resolutions to enter into contracts for borough capital projects, including:

· up to $69,800 with Henry Construction for roofing and door upgrades to Klehini Valley Fire Department;

· up to $121,160 with Stickler Construction to provide roofing replacement and repairs for the Chilkat Center;

· up to $63,721 with Whiterock LLC for Sunshine Street and Piedad Road water system upgrades; and,

· of $567,533 with PND Engineers for geotechnical studies, including drilling of the sea floor at the Haines harbor, toward determining the construction of a wave barrier to be built there.

Chilkat Center roof repair and harbor drilling work are scheduled for this fall.

Borough facilities manager Brian Lemcke reported this week he hoped to have heat in the Chilkat Center soon following recent failure of the building’s aging boiler system.

New boilers should arrive next week, he said.

In a letter to the borough Aug. 14, Pacific Rim Mechanical of Anchorage said it could install two new boilers, an expansion tank, new boiler piping and controls at the center for approximately $30,000.