Recall aimed at 3 on assembly

 


Ten Haines residents have launched a recall petition against Haines Borough Assembly members Heather Lende, Tresham Gregg and Tom Morphet.

Borough clerk Julie Cozzi received the petitions, co-sponsored by Don Turner Jr. and Ryan Cook, Wednesday afternoon.

Cook and Turner cite unverified quotations from emails between borough employees and between assembly members as evidence that assembly members violated borough code and state law in their roles as elected officials.

Cook and Turner declined to comment on the matter Wednesday. Cook said he wanted to wait to see what the clerk and borough attorney determined about the petition.

Cozzi said she hasn’t found the specific emails but would provide them to KHNS and the Chilkat Valley News when and if she does.

Turner quotes Haines Police chief Heath Scott in correspondence to the borough manager on Jan. 11, 2017.

“‘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,’” Turner’s document states.

It went on, “Coercion of a subordinate in an attempt to affect a personal or financial interest is misuse of his official position,” and stated the Chilkat Valley News, owned by Morphet, stands to benefit from the blotter.

The document also states Lende and Morphet in October 2016 directed then borough manager Bill Seward during a public meeting to not open bids on the harbor expansion project. The document states those requests go against borough code that bars assembly members from individually directing the manager.


The document refers to “Morphet, Lende, Gregg, and Jackson communicating on the 33-foot harbor extension by email or phone.”

The petitioners say the communication is a violation of an Alaska statute, the Open Meetings Act, which prohibits three or more assembly members from communicating outside an official meeting about borough business.

An email between Gregg and Lende that names Morphet and Jackson is cited in a fourth complaint against Gregg.

Lende said the complaints are “baseless” and it’s unfortunate a recall petition is the route the petitioners chose in voicing their concerns.

“It’ll be a good distraction for them before summer gets here,” Lende said. “It’s almost a cliché in Haines to think every time there’s a disagreement, someone pulls out a recall petition, so at least we’re living up to our reputation.”


Morphet described the applications as “laughable” and that the petitioners should stop wasting taxpayer money having staff chase down frivolous claims. He said he never ordered Scott to provide the police report to the newspaper.

“Certainly I’d like to have it in the paper,” Morphet said. “The reason I’d like to have it mainly is because it’s a public document and the public deserves it and it’s not theirs to withhold.”

In Gregg’s recall petition, Turner and Cook quote Gregg as saying “We can choose or not to choose to follow code” during a public meeting as evidence he misused his official position.

The borough attorney will assist Cozzi in determining whether each recall application meets state requirements. Cozzi estimated it would take about two weeks to determine whether or not the applications are sufficient.

If the applications are found to be sufficient, the 10 sponsors must gather 258 signatures on each application before a special recall election would be held.

This isn’t the first time Turner has launched a complaint against assembly members. He and Terry Pardee, a sponsor of the recall applications, said the borough assembly in January acted improperly when it voted not to appoint former assembly member Diana Lapham on an advisory committee.


They asked Haines Police to investigate the matter as a criminal charge. Scott sent the claim to the district attorney who characterized such an investigation as “unprecedented” and “unethical.”

Scott did not respond to an interview request.

Besides Turner, Cook and Pardee, J. Dwight Downer, Michael Binkie, Ronald Malone, Marty Smith, Shane Horton, Robert Adams and Melissa Snell sponsored the petition.

 
 

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