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!
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.
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.
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.