APOC recommends changes to Kenai River Classic disclosures

ANCHORAGE — Public officials may need to disclose their participation in the Kenai River Classic in the future under a recent decision by the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

The commission discussed Kenai River Classic participation during an Oct. 21 meeting in Anchorage where it addressed three complaints against public officials related to past participation in the event.

Those complaints were filed against Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell, Department of Natural Resources Deputy Commissioner Ed Fogels and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.

In its Oct. 31 decisions, the commission did not find a violation regarding the waived entry fee for each of the officials, but noted that the practice may need to change in the future. The commission upheld staff recommendations on other components of each of the complaints.

Staff recommended reduced fines and public official financial disclosure training for Campbell and Fogels, and dismissal of the complaint against Treadwell.

The classic, an annual sportfishing event held on the Kenai River each year, is organized by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association as a fundraiser and educational event. KRSA has asked for a substantial donation —$4,000 — from most participants, but enabled “invited guests,” including public officials, to participate for free.

KRSA executives and public officials have said their participation is educational, and beneficial to both the state and the organization.

In the future, however, officials may have to disclose the waived entrance fee as part of their official disclosures. The commission wrote that the tiered donation/participation fee system created a “precarious position” for public officials.

“Now that this information is known, if the Classic continues to operate in the same manner, public officials should consider the requirements applicable to the reporting of gifts received by public officials set forth in (state statute),” the commission wrote.

In a Nov. 3 email, KRSA Executive Director Ricky Gease wrote that he couldn’t provide formal comment on the orders since they had just been released, but that the organization worked with APOC on its investigation and voluntarily submits quarterly and annual reports to the commission.

The commission decided on 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 greater because her violation occurred two years earlier, meaning that her disclosure was more delinquent.

Campbell will also be required to attend a training session on public official financial disclosure, a staff suggestion that she said she would “enthusiastically embrace” during the October hearing.

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.

The complaints were among more than 250 filed by Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage residents connected to the commercial fishing industry in Cook Inlet. All related to the Kenai River Sportfishing Association’s Kenai River Classic and other outreach and lobbying of public officials by various entities regarding fisheries management, including at state Board of Fisheries meetings.

An appeal has been filed regarding seven of the complaints; those will be made public after the commission finalizes the agenda for its Nov. 19 meeting, according to APOC Executive Director Paul Dauphinis.

11/18/2016 - 9:27am