APOC considers complaints regarding Kenai River Classic
The Alaska Public Offices Commission heard complaints on Oct. 21 against three public officials who participated in the Kenai River Classic.
During its regularly scheduled meeting, APOC heard the complaints addressing the participation of Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell, Department of Natural Resources Deputy Commissioner Ed Fogels and the daughter of Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.
Staff recommended reduced fines and public official financial disclosure training for Campbell and Fogels, and dismissal of the complaint against Treadwell.
Action on the complaints did not occur during the public portion of the meeting; the commission met in a closed session for deliberations after hearing the staff reports and discussing the complaints.
The commission typically issues an order with its decision within 10 days of deliberating the matter, according to APOC Executive Director Paul Dauphinis.
The Kenai River Classic is an annual sportfishing event organized by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.
The staff recommendation, presented by APOC’s July Lam, calls for a $45 fine for Fogels and a $264 fine for Campbell, in both cases a 97 percent reduction of the regular fee. Campbell’s fee was much higher because her violation occurred two years earlier, meaning that her disclosure was more delinquent.
Campbell’s violation was for failing to disclose gifts received at the 2011 KRC on her public officials financial disclosure form; Fogels violation was for failing to disclose 2013 participation.
Both amended their filings to reflect the gifts after the APOC complaints were filed, and said they had disclosed participation to departmental ethics supervisors and the Department of Law.
The complaint against Treadwell revolved around his daughter’s alleged participation; however, she did not attend the classic, and just ate one meal — a taco — and state regulations do not require that meals intended for immediate consumption be disclosed.
Lam also told the commission that she was recommending the reduced fees because the information about the officials’ participation had been publically available elsewhere, including on KRSA filings, and neither individual had appeared to be trying to conceal it. The reduction was also justified because there was no significant harm to the public from the violations, she said.
Campbell told the commission that she would “enthusiastically embrace” the suggestion that she attend a financial disclosure training as she doesn’t want to inadvertently fail to report something in the future. She and Fogels both spoke during the commission meeting; Treadwell was unable to attend.
According to written reports, the cost of APOC staff time to address the complaints against Fogels and Campbell was $637.50 each, with 15 hours spent on each of those complaints. Because the parties involved were cooperative, the report did not recommend passing along that cost.
The complaints also asserted that each of the three public officials did not disclose a waived entrance fee to the event; the staff report, however, found that the KRSA considers the entrance fee a donation, and does not request that public officials make that donation, so that was not considered a violation for any of them.
KRSA Executive Director Ricky Gease told the commission that when the event is organized each year, public officials are invited with no mention of a donation or cost. He said it’s considered an educational event, and that the officials would be welcome to visit the Kenai and see KRSA’s work at any time of the year.
The entry form for the classic typically lists a $4,000 cost for participation; Gease said that after the event, participants receive a letter detailing how much is considered a donation and what covers the costs of participation.
The classic is a fundraiser as well as an educational event, and Gease told the commission that KRSA typically seeks sponsors in a variety of ways — both through participation, as well as some who donate money or items, or volunteer with the event, sometimes not even participating despite contributing.
The three complaints discussed were the only ones accepted out of more than 250 complaints filed in August and September by Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage residents with ties to Cook Inlet commercial fisheries. All related to the Kenai River Sportfishing Association’s Kenai River Classic and other outreach and lobbying of public officials by carious entities regarding fisheries management, including at state Board of Fisheries meetings.
Appeals on certain complaints, however, have been filed.