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

 
 

Borough evicts man at harbor

 


A local man has been banned from Haines Borough ports and harbors indefinitely after allegedly threatening the harbormaster.

Harbormaster Phil Benner said he called police Jan. 17 after Corey Tatham, a Haines fisherman, threatened to “kick his ass” after Benner informed Tatham that living on his boat during winter was prohibited.

The Haines Borough Assembly passed an ordinance last fall prohibiting physical and verbal assault against borough and harbor employees. The ordinance also gives the harbormaster the authority to suspend or revoke the privilege of using port and harbor facilities.

Upon returning from a recent vacation, Benner learned from the assistant harbormaster that he had “been having some problems with (Tatham)” living on his boat. Benner said he was clearing snow in the harbor parking lot Thursday morning and came across the man’s truck blocking his progress.

“So I knocked on his (boat’s) window and said, ‘Excuse me, can you move your truck and also you’re not allowed to be living on your boat between October and April,’” Benner said.

By the time Benner had walked back up the ramp to continue plowing, Tatham was out of his boat and cursing at him and threatening to beat him up, Benner said. Benner said he told Tatham to stop or the police would be called. The man continued cursing and angrily encouraged Benner to call the police.

“As soon as I pulled out my cell phone to call the police, he had gotten in his truck and left,” Benner said.

Officer Adam Patterson responded to the scene and took Benner’s statement. Police chief Gary Lowe said officers were unable to locate Tatham, but contacted him the following day to record his account of the incident. Lowe said charges of assault in the fourth degree have been forwarded to the district attorney.

Benner initially sought to pursue the issue as a criminal matter, but when Tatham ignored Benner’s order and stayed on his boat overnight on Tuesday, he said he decided something had to be done and organized a meeting with Lowe and borough manager Mark Earnest Wednesday morning.

“Me and Mark and the police chief talked about it and thought it may be the best solution rather than continuing to confront him...My staff shouldn’t have to put up with abuse or being threatened,” Benner said.

Benner said police intended to deliver a hand-certified letter to Tatham by Wednesday afternoon ordering him to leave the harbor. Benner said Tatham is allowed to keep his boat in the harbor if he can find someone else to look after it, but will be arrested if he personally sets foot in a borough port or harbor.

Benner said the order does not specify the length of the ban, which is at his discretion.

Benner said it is unfortunate the situation came to this resolution, but that as a borough employee, he is required to enforce borough laws.

“Some people think it’s personal. I don’t make the code, I just have to enforce the code. I don’t want anybody to be destitute or out on the street, but I have to follow code. I have to treat everybody the same,” Benner said.