June 27, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 25

Culbeck cleared of conflict

Haines Borough attorney Brooks Chandler says assistant to the manager Darsie Culbeck should not be prohibited from working for an exploratory mining company while maintaining employment with the borough.

Culbeck is working up to 10 hours per week for the borough while also working as camp manager for Constantine Metal Resources, a company performing exploratory drilling for a mining project 40 miles north of Haines.

As Culbeck can’t take official action but can only offer input on matters, his dual employment “does not rise to the ‘substantial financial interest’ standard requiring recusal in the conflict of interest portion of the borough code,” Chandler wrote in a six-page memo.

“We believe it is highly unlikely any ‘Constantine-related’ projects the assistant would arguably be precluded from working on under the ethics code would constitute a significant amount of the nine months of work to be performed for the borough during fiscal year 2014. Any ethics issues could be addressed on a case-by-case basis,” he wrote.

Culbeck’s position was recently cut from full-time to nine months after Culbeck offered to take a three-month seasonal leave of absence.

Any involvement by the assistant to the manager in Constantine-related projects is “too speculative to justify prohibiting a borough employee granted a leave of absence from working for Constantine,” Chandler wrote.

Culbeck said Chandler’s finding on his employment status went “as expected.”

Mayor Stephanie Scott said she wasn’t surprised by Chandler’s conclusion. “I don’t have any problem with (Culbeck) taking a leave of absence and taking another job. I have to agree with (Chandler). I think there will be very little to no opportunity for (Culbeck) to affect policy that would somehow relate to Constantine.”

Scott pointed out she works for the school district, and assembly member Dave Berry is the tribal administrator for the Chilkoot Indian Association. “I think people are assigning to (Culbeck) a level of influence he doesn’t have. That’s all.”

Scott said she did disagree with an arrangement under which Culbeck will continue to receive full-time borough benefits. Code stipulates permanent, full-time employees and permanent, part-time employees work an average of 35 hours per week to secure full health insurance coverage.

“This doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t know how to justify this,” Scott said.

Scott said she has a problem with the precedent such a decision will set. It effectively implements “the implied policy that the borough will give somebody a leave of absence during which they will go work for somebody else for money and their benefits will still be paid.”

The personnel committee will tackle the issue at an upcoming meeting, and the borough attorney has also been asked to weigh in, Scott said.