SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Allegations of Possible Electioneering at Mike Smithers Pool Investigated


October 13, 2009

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - An investigation was initiated after Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst received information last week from two Ketchikan Borough Assembly Members reporting that they had been contacted by constituents expressing concerns that Borough employees had engaged in promoting the passage of Proposition No. 2 during work hours at Borough facilities. Proposition Number 2 was a proposition approved by the voters on October 6th authorizing $23.5 million in general obligation bonds for an Aquatic Center.

According to a memo from Dan Bockhorst to the Borough Mayor and Assembly, specifically, it was alleged that Borough Parks and Recreation Department employees were handing out yard signs and pamphlets promoting Proposition No. 2, and were also calling individuals from Borough facilities to invite them to post signs promoting Proposition Number 2.

Bockhorst wrote in his October 9th memo that the allegations are serious and that a thorough and credible investigation of the matter is being undertaken. As of Friday, Borough staff have spent more than 60 hours investigating the allegations. Bockhorst noted that that figure does not include time spent by the Borough Attorney, Borough Clerk, or by him.

Based on the investigation completed as of October 9th, Bockhorst reported that during a five-day period from Friday, October 2, through Tuesday, October 6, security cameras at the borough operated Mike Smithers pool facility showed what appeared to be 27 brief intervals during which employees of the Borough Parks and Recreation Department displayed, handled, or distributed materials promoting Proposition Number 2 at the pool facility while on Borough time. The investigation also revealed that "on a couple of occasions, the Borough phone was used" to invite people to post signs.

According to Ketchikan Gateway Borough Code Section 5.37.210(h), "No employee may request or permit the use of borough vehicles, equipment, materials or property for a non-borough purpose, including but not limited to private financial gain, unless that use is available to the general public on the same terms or unless specifically authorized by the borough manager."

Ketchikan Gateway Borough Code Section 5.37.210(i) states, "Employees may not take an active part in a political campaign or other matter to be brought before the voters when on duty. Nothing herein shall be construed as preventing employees for exercising their voting franchise, contributing to a campaign or candidate of their choice or expressing their political views when not on duty or otherwise conspicuously representing the borough."

In his October 9th memo to the Borough Mayor and Assembly Members Bockhorst wrote, "At this point, there seems to be evidence that half of the ten employees engaged in a single apparent inappropriate act. At the other end of the spectrum, one employee engaged in what appears to be nine apparent inappropriate actions while another seems to have engaged in ten such actions."

Bockhorst wrote, "It is important to recognize that none of the actions by employees appear to fall within the scope of corrupt election practices set out in Chapter 56 of Title 15 of the Alaska Statutes or provision of the Borough Code. The activities in question (i.e., apparent violations of Section 5.37.210(h) and (i) of the Borough Code) are personnel matters, not an election matter."

"There is no basis to conclude at this point in the investigation that any of the actions alleged or evident from the investigation show any misconduct or corrupt election practice, let alone misconduct or a corrupt election practice sufficient to change the results of the election regarding Proposition Number 2," wrote Bockhorst.

Borough Manager Bockhorst noted in his memo that Borough Attorney Scott Brandt-Erichsen had advised him that in order for an election to be invalidated, the appropriate standard is:

(1) That an illegal election practice has occurred that was sufficient to change the outcome of the election; or
(2) A corrupt election practice as defined by the laws of the State of Alaska; or mal-conduct, fraud, or corruption by an election official has occurred and that such is sufficient to change the result of the election.

Bockhorst concluded his report by stating, "In order to sustain a challenge to the election results, a petition must be filed by 10 registered voters demonstrating how the activities in question were sufficient to change the results of the election."


Related Information:

Download: October 9, 2009 Memorandum from Cynna Gubatayo, Assistant Borough Manager re: Possible Electioneering at Mike Smithers Pool (pdf)

Download: October 7, 2009 Memorandum from Wendy Mackie, Parks and Recreation Department Supervision, re: Phone usage(pdf)



Source of News:

Office of the Borough Manager


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