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August 20, 2014

Mayor Sullivan’s Christmas Carol

Dan Sullivan, especially during his tenure as Mayor of Anchorage, could arguably qualify as “Dickensian.” In the past, Sullivan has funneled funds to his “friend” the “Party Planner,” made sure he got paid before he started the job, and signed a Municipal check for his family trust through a fake “insurance policy.”

And that was just the first year! Scrooge would be so proud!

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Since then, he’s helped gut the schools by slashing the budget, lowering the tax cap and charging exorbitant fees; and caused Municipal employees to abandon city service like passengers on the Titanic, through the anti-union and privatizing threat of AO 37. As a result, too few want to risk replacing them and residents watch in fear as the crime rate soars while the number of police shrink.

The list goes on, but readers of this blog already know the stories.

All of this has been dutifully supported by the Mayor’s yes-man and partner, Jacob Marley…errr…Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler.

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At present, the Mayor has involved himself in more controversy. Several weeks ago, as reported in the ADN, Mayor Sullivan attended a fundraiser in Washington DC in his bid for Alaska Lieutenant Governor. This fundraiser was thrown by Blank Rome, a law/lobbying firm that has held a contract with the Municipality for years. The current contract is as a sub-contractor through Chambers, Conlon and Hartwell.

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The ADN article discusses the ethics (or potential lack therof) of expending Municipal resources on a trip that includes campaigning for higher office. It quotes from the Municipal Code of Ethics (Chapter 1.15).

“Anchorage’s ethics code bars city officials from spending public money “for the support, opposition, or endorsement of candidates for any elected government office” and would make it illegal for Sullivan to have the city pay for a trip that was solely campaign related.”

However, that quote is from the section dealing specifically with:

“Departments, boards, commissions, agencies, authorities, public corporations, or other administrative divisions of municipal government…”

It does NOT say “elected officials,” nor does it specifically list the Mayor, which is required in Section 1.15.025 for it to apply to him. (It is interesting that the man who holds the position of Municipal Attorney did not point that out. It should be his job to know.)

In researching the Code of Ethics, there are several sections that are applicable to the Mayor and more applicable to the situation.

One comes in the beginning of the Code and applies to “prohibited conduct” of employees and elected officials alike:

1.15.020 – Prohibited conduct.
“A. These actions are in conflict with the public interest and therefore no person included within the scope of this chapter shall:…

7. Divert or permit the diversion of municipal personnel time, municipal services, vehicles, equipment, materials or other property for a purpose unrelated to municipal business…”

While there is no specific mention of money in this portion, later on it mentions “municipal resources,” which would clearly include finances. Also, Dennis Wheeler is quoted in the ADN article using an equivalent in State Law:

“Wheeler referred to the state’s ethics laws, which permit executive-branch officials to use state aircraft for political purposes when the use is “collateral or incidental to the normal performance of official duties.

“That law, however, requires officials to reimburse the state for the proportion of time they used the aircraft for political purposes.”

Municipal Attorney Wheeler is equating financial resources expended for travel to government-owned equipment used for travel. In other words…if the Muni had its own plane, the Mayor would be traveling on it rather than using Municipal funds. Therefore, per Wheeler’s own analogy, the Mayor’s travel should be considered use of Municipal resources and falls under this section of the Municipality’s Code of Ethics.

The second applicable portion comes under the section specific to elected officials:

“1.15.035 M. Political Activity – An elected official shall not:

4. Authorize that money held by the municipality be used to influence the outcome of an election…”

As you can see, this is VERY different from the non-applicable portion quoted in the ADN. While employees are prohibited from using Municipal funds to specifically support, endorse or oppose a candidate, the prohibition for elected officials is much broader and gives no type of wiggle room for time “off the clock.” Fundraisers are clearly attempts to influence the outcome of an election, and not one dollar of taxpayer funds should have been expended in that goal.

It makes one wonder if Municipal Attorney Wheeler’s response to the ADN based on the wrong section of code was laziness, incompetence, or purposefully misleading? (We could ask the ACLU what their guess might be.)

It also makes one wonder if Wheeler’s advice to the Mayor was based on that incorrect application of the Code? When asked today, Mayor Sullivan’s Communications Liaison Lindsey Whitt stated that Sullivan has not paid from personal funds any portion of his travel nor plans to do so in the future based on Dennis Wheeler’s analysis.

We’ll all see if that changes in the coming year.

Comments

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Comments
12 Responses to “Mayor Sullivan’s Christmas Carol”
  1. mike from iowa says:

    Anybody survive?

  2. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    Zyxomma:

    I am somewhat outside Forteleza and the local buzz is that carnival is really no big thing. We’ll see I guess.
    I am just dreading the complications to travel that the flocking to carnival will result in. That is if I have to go to Beijing again at about that time. My agent tells me if I have to go international around that time to fly to
    Caracas or Bogata instead of Rio or Sao Paulo and then go through europe to China. Last trip I went from
    Rio to Miami to SFO to Bejing. It was arduous.

    Sigh, I just wish I had someone to plan this party for me. I guess there is just not enough wealth and power to go around else I would have arranged a party planner well in advance to get me to my next grilling over the prospects of our discoveries here. Said person beng fluent in English, Portuguese and Mandarin. But then I am not a mayor, nor any kind of politician.

    All I am really saying is that folks in alaska appear to be a bit numb to being fleeced. Or, more accuratly, being skinned alive. It strikes me as a little strange.

    Feliz whatever.

  3. Valley_Independent says:

    So, was the municipal staff member that is also a campaign staffer really required to be there for the lobbying trip? Not only is the mayor’s travel suspect as to how important it was for him to lobby in DC in person, but also that of the campaign staff member.

    Typical of a Sullivan, though, to not care about ethical considerations or the spirit of the law, as long as they can meet the minimum legal requirements (or at least think they can be declared to have done so if questioned). Wheeler has come up with more than one decision that does not appear to have been in keeping with the best interests of the public. How good of an attorney is he? Where does he fit in party politics?

  4. mike from iowa says:

    Satan and Santa have the exact same letters and the exact same number of syllables. Satan is red,therefore Santa must be red. Sullivan has more letters and syllables than either Satan or Santa,therefore he is inherently more evil than either or both combined. Coincidently,he is also red. Christmas is the season of peace and goodwill,except for rethuglicans. Neither Satan or Santa felt the need for a party planner.

  5. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    Nothing to do, no place to be, xmas is not as big a deal in the tropics. Mostly everyone here is hoping it will
    start to rain soon, we have had a dry rainy season for the most part and that is not good.

    I have always been amused by the party planner concept. Good tidings to all you mudflatters in the cold north. New years gets more attention for the most part. here so happy new year at the same time. There is a small chance that I will be leaving the country for another journey to Asia just when carnival begins to get cranked up. It will be a struggle to time it correctly so that I am going against the flow. I don’t expect carnival to be quite so enthusiastic here as it is in the big cities.

    Just wanted to express some solidarity with the mudflats crew and followers, you are looked at from all over the globe. We can’t be of much assistance to you from afar, but we are all hopeful the coming year will see some improvements for you. Perhaps you will be able to rid yourselves of some pesky politicians.

    Bom noiche!

    • Zyxomma says:

      Boa noite, KN. I don’t know if you’re still in Brasil, or have moved on to elsewhere, but there are a number of cities along the northeast coast where Carneval is a really big deal — Fortaleza, Ceara being one of them. Ask the locals what you might miss if you split. Health and peace.

  6. mike from iowa says:

    Merry Christmas-Happy Holidays or whatever you prefer to all and to all a good night.(except rethuglicans). Bedtime for me-reindeer hunting starts early tomorrow morning around here. Gotta keep the heat on the war on Christmas.

  7. slipstream says:

    While we are quoting applicable laws here, let us also consider our own responsibilities:

    1.15.047 Q. Required illustrations: Each time a blog mentions the “party planner” that blog shall also include a photograph of the aforementioned “party planner.”

    Or two photographs, if it’s really close to Christmas.

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