The recall effort is generating distrust between several Haines Borough Assembly members and some borough staff after the recall’s sponsor requested a specific email between borough officials.

In a March 7 public records request, Don Turner specifically requested “…information about police complaint to the manager about the police blotter that was sent on January 11, 2017 or there about regarding two assembly members.”

As a result of his public records request, Turner received an email from police chief Heath Scott to interim borough manager Brad Ryan and cc’d to clerk Julie Cozzi. Turner used the content of that email in his recall petition to suggest assembly members Heather Lende and Tom Morphet misused their official position.

“Based on last night’s meeting as well as several other encounters (documented) I believe Assembly members Morphet and Lende require direction regarding requesting HBPD to provide the blotter,” Scott wrote to Ryan in the email.

Scott stopped releasing the blotter in its entirety last fall, citing a lack of resources and its negative portrayal of the department as reasons for discontinuing its traditional form.

Scott characterized Morphet’s interest in the police blotter as a “conflict of interest” and wrote that while Lende has no financial interest, “she is affiliated with both CVN and KHNS and has interests in the welfare of these organizations.”

In a post on a local Facebook group “Haines Rant & Rave,” Turner said “Mr. Seward” told him about an email. The assembly fired former borough manager Bill Seward last December. He made a public records request in December for any emails between disgruntled employees and the assembly. Scott’s January email to Ryan was not included in that request.

In an interview with the CVN, Lende said she was never made aware of Scott’s concerns.

“I have never been contacted about it and I’ve thought, ‘Why not?’” Lende said. “Why didn’t they tell me? Why didn’t somebody say something? I’ve discussed (the blotter) at a meeting since then… part of this has shaken my trust in the government that I am representing…It’s very unsettling. Call me naïve but I just assume everybody’s on the up and up and we’re all working together to do good things.”

Morphet said he believes most borough staff is sincere, but that the nature of how the email was acquired “raises red flags.”

“There’s always going to be some tension between staff and the assembly, but if we feel our very seats are being undermined by staff, that’s a big concern,” Morphet said.

Ryan said he didn’t share Scott’s concerns with Lende or Morphet because it was a “personnel issue.”

“There’s lot’s of times that I get concerns and we decide how to address them,” Ryan said. “We don’t go back to any individuals.”

Ryan said he wouldn’t comment further on the issue since the email is now the center of a recall effort.

Ryan added he asked Scott if he told anyone about the email, “and he said ‘no.’”

Scott said he didn’t want to comment on the recall or the email because it was an issue he brought up between himself and the manager.

Cozzi said in a small town, it’s not that extraordinary for the public to hear about internal borough affairs.

“It wasn’t Brad (Ryan). It wasn’t me,” Cozzi said. “I don’t believe it was Heath (Scott). I could even ask Don (Turner) how he knew about it. I think it’s possible (Scott) might have mentioned it to someone else just in passing in January and that person could have mentioned it to (Turner). I hate for people to get all wrapped around thinking of conspiracies. It is what it is. It was a fairly innocuous email really. I get emails from my staff members expressing concerns. It doesn’t mean they’re discloseable.”

Cozzi added she’s sorry if Lende or anyone else doesn’t trust staff and that she “detests recalls.”

Assembly member Margaret Friedenauer said she thinks staff need to vent and communicate their concerns, but she also said “…it’s a little perplexing the way (the knowledge of the email) came together,” and “the fact that (the recall) has gone this far.”

Assembly member Ron Jackson said public knowledge of the email points to administration or the police chief himself telling the public about the email.

“Either way I would feel betrayed a little bit by them,” Jackson said. “It’s one thing to release things that people ask for and it’s another to enable or support a recall effort through personal knowledge of some thing that exists. It seems inappropriate for someone in government that knows of something to leak information in support of actions against other government officials because they support, in this case the recall, or they dislike the assembly members.”

During the January 10 assembly meeting Scott referenced in his email regarding Morphet and Lende misusing their public positions, Lende spoke during assembly comments and said she wanted to “put in another pitch for putting the blotter in the paper especially because I miss it.”

“I miss reading that our police are responsive to a citizen who has a garbage can lid going down the street or somebody’s checking on their neighbor and that we do that…I think especially when we’re looking at the budget process, it helps if people see how kind and responsive our police are to a lot of things and that they’re doing something,” Lende said during that January 10 meeting.

Morphet also mentioned the blotter during the meeting and cited its importance as a public document, and addressed concerns he had about the “erosion of access to public documents in the borough.”

“The interest in the blotter isn’t so much that it is in the newspaper but that for 20 years the police log was considered a public document,” Morphet said during the January 10 assembly meeting. “A person could go in and get a copy of the police blotter. We chose to publish it in the newspaper. For years it was also published on Facebook.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the recall sponsors had not turned in their completed petitions to the borough, according to deputy clerk Alekka Fullerton.

If they do, the borough will hold a special election where voters will decide whether or not they want to recall the assembly members.

If any of those members are recalled, the remaining assembly members will appoint new members to fill the vacant seats. Haines residents are free to run for those seats during the October election.