February 14, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 6

Attorney says assembly erred

The Haines Borough’s attorney has concluded that the assembly committed a procedural error during its Jan. 22 closed-door meeting, but that no remedial action is necessary.

Attorney Brooks Chandler wrote in a Feb. 5 memo to Mayor Stephanie Scott that the assembly failed to make a motion to enter into executive session to discuss manager Mark Earnest’s performance evaluation. Alaska’s Open Meetings Act requires a motion be made to move into executive session.

While a public notice posted Jan. 15 stated the purpose of the meeting and that Earnest’s evaluation qualified for discussion in executive session, “the public notice cannot substitute for the motion in part because the public notice did not specifically tell the public the assembly would go into executive session,” Chandler wrote.

“Now we know. It was helpful to have that awareness so that we don’t inadvertently make that same mistake in the future,” manager Mark Earnest said in an interview this week.

In his memo, Chandler referred to the misstep as a “no harm” situation requiring no corrective action. Earnest said he agreed with Chandler’s analysis.

“I agree with that, because there would not have been any difference had that been done precisely as prescribed. So the outcome doesn’t change,” Earnest said.

The assembly’s decision to give Earnest a “satisfactory”evaluation effectively extended his contract until July 2014.

Chandler will travel to Haines and speak to the assembly regarding the Alaska Open Meetings Act and executive session procedures on Feb. 26.