State paid travel bills for board chairman in hometown

Update: The Department of Fish and Game has responded to a request for comment regarding this story. ADFG has granted waivers to Johnstone for rules prohibiting payment of travel expenses in the community of residence. Read the story here.

Board of Fisheries Chairman Karl Johnstone’s bio on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website states he has lived in Anchorage since 1967, but last October he incurred $1,440 in travel expenses for a meeting held in his hometown.

Information obtained by the Journal shows that Johnstone had expenses of $108 for surface transportation, a $792 hotel bill and received $540 in per diem payments for the work session and Pacific cod meeting that lasted from Oct. 4 to Oct. 10, 2011.

Receiving per diem in the community of residence is prohibited by state law.

According to Alaska statute 39.20.185: “A state official or employee who is a member of the judicial council or a state official or employee appointed by the governor to a state board, commission, or committee established under the authority of law is not entitled to per diem when the meeting or other business takes place in the community of which the member is a resident.”

The Journal placed a public records request with ADFG Commissioner Cora Campbell’s office Feb. 24 to obtain expense reports for Board of Fisheries meetings dating back to 2009 when Johnstone began his first term.

The state had not responded to a request for comment by press time.

Johnstone was appointed by former Gov. Sarah Palin in December 2008 to finish out the term of Jeremiah Campbell, and was subsequently nominated by Palin for a full term that began July 1, 2009.

His current term expires June 30 and he must be nominated by Gov. Sean Parnell before the end of the current legislative session for confirmation and a second term.

At the October meeting in Anchorage, Johnstone, a former Alaska Superior Court Judge, was elected chairman of the board. According to his 2010 financial disclosure filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, Johnstone earns a judicial pension of more than $100,000 per year.

Johnstone has a home on Snowy Plover Circle off Potter Valley Road in Anchorage, and he also has a home on a golf course in Prescott, Ariz., where he spends his winters and flies back to Alaska for board meetings such as the one taking place in Ketchikan through March 4 as the Journal went to press.

Johnstone’s wife, Valerie Van Brocklin, is a trainer and consultant for law enforcement agencies and her website states she lives in Arizona from October to May.

Johnstone and Van Brocklin claim both the residential and senior property tax exemptions at their Anchorage home. According to the Anchorage municipal code, the credits may only be claimed if the home is occupied by the owners for at least 185 days per year.

Van Brocklin’s website also states that she is in Alaska from May to October. There are 184 days between May 1 and Oct. 31.

Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected].

03/01/2012 - 1:14pm