After being stonewalled by the Haines Borough Assembly, former Mayor Stephanie Scott is asking the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to explain how an 11 percent settlement with the Alaska Power Company would serve the public’s interest.

Scott submitted a letter to the RCA last week asking the agency commissioners responsible for accepting the settlement to publicly “shed light on” how the deal came to be. Specifically, Scott wanted the RCA to publicly explain how it could reconcile the 11 percent settlement with the testimony of the attorney general’s expert witness Ralph Smith, who recommended APC receive a 5.5 percent increase at most.

Smith testified in the case on behalf of the state’s Regulatory Affairs and Public Advocacy section, which is designed to protect consumer interests. Smith defended his 5.5 percent rate calculation in more than 100 pages of testimony submitted on behalf of RAPA.

APC, the power subsidiary of Alaska Power and Telephone, was initially seeking a permanent, across-the-board increase of more than 18 percent.

Scott’s letter isn’t an overt complaint about the negotiated settlement as much as it is a plea for explanation, though she does point out that the increase clashes with the borough’s Comprehensive Plan, which aims to work with local utilities to decrease rates.

“I can’t help but observe that this settlement agreement is counter-productive to economic development in Haines, in rural Alaska,” Scott writes.  

In addition to sending the letter, Scott emailed the assembly members who voted in favor of the settlement – Diana Lapham, Mike Case, George Campbell – and asked them to reconsider their votes at the next assembly meeting. They declined.

In an email to Scott, assembly member Diana Lapham blamed the media for focusing on the expert testimony from Smith, and not the testimony of other expert witnesses, including four paid for by APC.

Lapham also griped about the media spotlighting the assembly’s closed door sessions. “They insinuated right from the start that we were not being transparent or that there was something sinister going on. You know how this process goes, we are still bound in some areas by our executive session,” she wrote.

However, Lapham still wouldn’t explain to Scott her reason for voting to accept the settlement. “My reasons for voting ‘yes’ have long-range reasons. To ask that our community trust what we are trying to do now has us working from square one again. You know that making this decision was not easy, but in order to achieve a greater gain, sometimes we have to make what are ‘perceived’ unpopular decisions. Thank you Stephanie, I know if you had been privy to our session, you would have clearer knowledge of all the (information),” Lapham wrote.

Case also declined to reconsider his vote, writing in an email to Scott that he objected to her suggestion that Haines residents would be more upset about the settlement if they were politically engaged or otherwise aware of the issue.   

“I disagree that the electorate has been asleep. Over the years, they have chosen you, me and others to represent their best interests as we understand them. It is rather insulting to the people of Haines to accuse them (of) apathy just because they have chosen to trust their elected officials,” Case wrote.

In an interview last week, Case said he voted to accept the settlement because he trusted the borough attorney’s recommendation. “We hired somebody to do a job and he did it, so I’m just going with it,” Case said.

“It’s not that I particularly like the rate, although it’s not all that bad either, when you stop and think about it,” he added.

Campbell also said in a recent interview with the CVN he wouldn’t reconsider his vote.

The RCA still has to approve the settlement, said Sam Cason, assistant attorney general for the Alaska Department of Law’s Regulatory Affairs and Public Advocacy department. They have 30 days after filing of the settlement to make a decision, which means the RCA should have a decision on the APC case by Dec. 13.

“The RCA has 30 days to approve or disapprove a stipulation unless they find good reason to extend that period,” Cason said.