The borough attorney cleared two Haines assembly members of alleged ethics violations following citizens’ complaints.

Assembly members Natalie Dawson and Ben Aultman-Moore were accused of having a conflict of interest when they voted to ask Constantine to share information about its planned resource exploration activities. 

The attorney’s memos — a total of 19 heavily annotated pages —  found that the members actions did not constitute ethics violations, since the assembly members couldn’t be considered to have a “substantial financial interest” in the vote. 

Aultman-Moore questioned the need for the legal review.  

“It feels like a huge waste of money,” said Aultman-Moore. 

The legal review assumed the allegations in the complaint to be true. In fact, the allegations were based on inaccurate, outdated, or misleading information about Dawson and Aultman-Moore’s employers. 

In Aultman-Moore’s case, the complainant alleged his role as a board member of the conservation group Lynn Canal Conservation precluded him from voting on issues related to resource extraction. 

He was listed as a board member on the group’s website at least until mid-April, but Aultman-Moore said he hadn’t been a member since he took office in 2022. Jessica Plachta, executive director for the group, confirmed Aultman-Moore’s account. 

“If any amount of research was done…there wouldn’t have to be any sort of legal opinion in the first place,” Aultman-Moore said. 

Under borough code, when formal ethics complaints are filed, the manager can choose to forward the memos to the attorney. 

Kreitzer said she chose to send the complaints in order “to have an arms’ length decision” on the alleged violations. 

“As contentious as relationships are right now, I believed the Assembly members involved, the complainants and the public would benefit from an outside review of the complaints,” she wrote in an email.

Clerk Alekka Fullerton said on April 30 that it wasn’t clear how much time the attorney had billed for the two memos.

In Dawson’s case, the complainants relied on a mission statement opposing industrial development in the Chilkat Valley which came from an organization Dawson’s employer, Alaska Venture Fund, passed grant funding. 

According to Caciolla’s opinion, even if Alaska Venture Fund were opposed to all industrial development, “AVF fundraising was not ‘under consideration for official action’ of the assembly.”

Dawson declined to comment for this story, as did George Campbell who is one of a handful of people who filed the ethics complaints. 

Mayor Tom Morphet called it “unfortunate” that the complaints had been made in the first place. He said he didn’t fault the manager’s decision given the political divisions in Haines. 

“It’s kind of a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t thing,” he said.