Port Commission Meetings

port mac photo

The Port Commission meets monthly – generally on the third Monday of the month at 3 p.m.

The MSB staff tends to reveal important information at the Port Commission Meetings and thus, these meetings are crucial for the media and public to attend.

The Port Commission Agendas & Meeting Packets are usually posted online at the  last minute (sometimes the day of the meetings; sometimes the Friday before.) However, the MSB staff usually passes out many more documents at the meetings themselves and these documents never make it to the MSB website.

The Port meetings are held in the lower level conference room of the main MSB building. They should be held in the Assembly Chambers instead so that they can be video recorded properly and live-streamed.

The Port Operations Manager does make an audio recording of the meetings (probably so she can prepare the minutes), but these recordings are not posted online and are not available to the public without a Public Records Request.

This is not okay. The audio recordings for all Commission Meetings should be posted online.

Here is a collection of meeting minutes from the past couple of years.

It is interesting to read through the “progression” of various potential projects…AK LNG; Timber; A2A; NPI…with nothing ever coming to fruition.

December 19, 2016:

February 13, 2017:

March 20, 2017:

May 15, 2017:

June 19, 2017:

August 21, 2017:

October 16, 2017

MIA

January 15, 2018:

 

cancelled

April 2, 2018:

April 23, 2018:

May 21, 2018:

June 18, 2018:

July 16, 2018:

 

September 17, 2018:

October 15, 2018:

Minutes not available on website.

November 19, 2018 – Meeting cancelled

December 17, 2018:

 

 

 

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Outside Legal Costs (Update)

lawtoon3

Here are the records showing what the MSB paid to outside law firms for legal work during FY2016, FY2017, FY2018.  Click below to see all of the records.

429 426.900 law

Here are a few highlights:

Perkins Coie gets a lot of business from the MSB.

Note: Sean Parnell seems to be double dipping from the MSB. He was also getting paid as a consultant via his “NavNorth” company.

law highlight

OVER BUDGETING:

Why does the MSB always budget so much for outside legal costs? We have a staff of FIVE full time attorneys and yet, it seems like the MSB hires outside counsel for most of the important matters.

But beyond that concern – if our actual outside legal costs in FY2017 were 197K – why did the Assembly approve an FY2018 budget of 500K ??!!! 300K more than the actual costs from year before…This makes no sense…Is the MSB is trying to set aside huge amounts of money for potential settlements so that they do not have to disclose this type of thing later?

law budget

 

law budget total fy2017

And, as it turned out, the MSB spent only a total of 154K in FY2018.  So why did the Assembly approve 500K????

law fy2018 totals

The MSB paid our federal lobbyist – the North Star Group – $640,000 in 2005 !!!

Yes, this is a while ago now…but WUT????

If anyone is able to find out what this was for – please let me know.

lobby 4

NOTE: Jack Ferguson/The North Star Group continues to be the MSB’s federal lobbyist.

This group has been our lobbyist since 2004.  Their contract gets renewed every year. Here is the most recent renewal – June 2018.  Lately they get a flat rate of 75K per year. So, why the huge payout in 2005? Was that some sort of bonus? I cannot find any MSB Assembly resolutions from that time frame approving this huge payout.

Here is the most recent note on the MSB’s website about our federal lobbyist:

lobby 7

Here are more documents from the US Senate Lobbyist Disclosures database re: the MSB’s federal lobbyist:

lobby 1lobby 2lobby 3lobby 4lobby 5lobby 6

Confidential Manager’s Memos

behind the scenes

A source told me that the Manager issues monthly “Confidential” Memos to the Assembly Members.

These memos contain all the important information about what he is working on and what is really going on at the MSB. These are different than the public “Manager’s Reports” which are on the website (and used to be issued every month but are now only posted irregularly.)

This is NOT OKAY. NOTHING SHOULD BE KEPT SECRET FROM THE PUBLIC.

“For Show” Only? 

I have long suspected that the Assembly Meetings are “Show Meetings” where nothing much is really discussed or decided…Everything (esp. all the “Economic Development” stuff) that truly matters happens behind closed doors.

For example, the Manager and Internal Auditor and Attorney were in discussions for almost two years with the Alberta to Alaska project folks…This is potentially a huge waste of their time…Before they started the talks or starting drafting and negotiating legal contracts, they should have come to the public and asked if this project was something we were interested in pursuing. It would have saved a lot of time and $ if the answer was no. Bitumen is controversial. Logging is also controversial. So – the MSB staff needs to bring these ideas forward to the public at the beginning of the process.

Summary: Can someone please do a Public Records request for these Manager’s Monthly Memos going back five years?

These “memos” need to be posted online on a regular basis. The Manager and Assembly member cannot conduct business behind closed doors. The public needs and deserves to have the same information that our reps have so that we can evaluate how our reps are voting and/or we can speak up about certain items at the meetings.

Here is what the city of Berkeley, California does – it posts all “off agenda” memos on their website.

off agenda memos

Tar Sand Oil Dreams

Is BITUMEN going to save the Mat-Su Borough? Does the public really want to allow Bitumen to be shipped through our area?

beverly hillbillies

I posted this note on the Borough Budget Watch Group on November 28, 2018.

msb a 2 a original

* HUGE NEWS * * “MSB Manager’s Special” * The MSB may allow a private Canadian company (A2A Rail USA – i.e. Alberta to Alaska Railway) to fund the completion of and then lease our Rail Spur for 99 years! To ship BITUMEN by rail. Bitumen is tar oil. Shipping it by rail is controversial. The Canadian Gov’t would NOT allow BITUMEN to be shipped from Alberta (which has a lot of this stuff) to British Columbia due to safety and environmental concerns…Thus, investors are trying to find another “tidewater” port to access in order to ship this stuff to Asian markets – primarily China. So, now, A2A and its majority owner – Sean McCoshen – are interested in Port Mac and our rail spur. This new proposed project/deal would also involve various (yet to be sorted out) Port leases etc.

The MSB manager, who downplayed (I don’t think he even mentioned it) what commodity was going to be shipped, is fast tracking this. This is a “MSB Manager’s Special.” As usual, the public and the Assembly were kept in the dark until the very last minute – and now there is a “rush” to sign a contract. Apparently, A2A has been in talks with the MSB (Moosey and our “Internal Auditor” James Wilson) for about 1 1/2 years…but yesterday’s “work session” was the very first time that Moosey has publicly disclosed anything about this potential project. Now the manager wants the MSB Assembly to vote on this proposed project within the next month! This proposal is scheduled to be introduced at the next MSB Assembly meeting with a final vote on Dec 18th.

What about PUBLIC PROCESS? (Also, What about the timber deal? What about the gasline? I guess those projects are now going by the wayside.)

Moosey says that he and the MSB Attorney and A2A are ironing out the details of a contract now. Note: Assembly Member McKee said while he was given a copy of the very rough draft contract, it contained no attachments. McKee asked Mr. McCoshen to please submit a letter outlining his proposal in layman’s language.

Why weren’t the (limited) documents which were given out to the Assembly members made available to the public online or at the meeting?

WHY are the MSB staffers (Moosey, Wilson, and Spiropoulos) ALLOWING the public and Assembly members MERE WEEKS TO REVIEW THIS PROPOSAL? Why can’t the public review the actual contract and have some time to investigate the merits of this proposal?

Where does the State of AK and the AK RR stand on something like this?

WHAT IS IN IT FOR THE MSB? i DIDN’T HEAR ANYTHING ABOUT THE MSB MAKING much if any money off of this proposed deal.

What about safety concerns? Is this why (now former) Assembly Member Kowalke proposed gutting our transportation permitting process?

Note: at the 6 p.m. Assembly meeting following the 4 p.m. work session, Mayor Halter publicly urged Kowalke (who was in audience for both meetings) to apply for the open Port Commission seat. Hmmm…

Local Watch Dog Eugene Haberman attended this A2A Work Session and pointed out (at the public comment period he had to ask to be added!) that this whole thing is very mysterious…First, he said – the “work session” agenda was lacking in ANY DETAILS. The name of the company wasn’t even included on the agenda! (I guess the MSB didn’t want anyone doing any pre-meeting research.) And there was no meeting packet! (The rough draft contract and any other relevant documents should have been included in a meeting packet for the public to review.) Prior to the meeting, Mr. Haberman politely asked the gentlemen who were present and who were obviously there to give a presentation to reveal their names and they refused! They told Mr. Haberman to talk to their attorney – Jonathan Katchen with Holland & Hart – who was also present. Why the lack of transparency asked Mr. Haberman?

Fun fact: Mr. McCoshen and his team flew in by private jet from Canada directly to the Palmer airport. They arrived just 45 minutes prior to the “work session”. McCoshen said this was the only day he had available and that he would be leaving (via his jet) immediately after the meeting. McCoshen said he was born and lived in USA until he was a teen whereupon he moved to Canada with his family. He has law degree but has been in biz for many years including working on Wall Street. He now lives in L.A., California, but travels back to Winnepeg where his company is based all the time.

Fabulous quote from Mr. Haberman: You don’t give away the family jewels. (i.e. why would we gift our port to this private company essentially?)

Note – Google “Sean McCoshen” – he is involved in a recent controversy.

I urge everyone to listen to the MSB work session which took place yesterday at 4 p.m. The video/audio link is on the MSB’s website.

Manager always does stuff behind scenes and then brings it to assembly at very last minute. But I have seen the Alberta to AK railway listed as an agenda item on Port Commission meetings for a while now…and also, I was googling and saw that Mary Lockman did do a story on this 2 years ago..She interviewed the then Port Commissioner. So, while this mostly came out of the blue for the public and Assembly, the Port Commission has been aware of it for a while. See below article by Mary Lockman

https://www.frontiersman.com/news/international-markets-set-stage-for-port-development/article_9eef290c-f338-11e6-84eb-5f01332326b2.html?fbclid=IwAR1sRTug03TstZBEWO2RHEfYyA-b-dylgBkZYBIPRJ941GDZLPub4K474qI

 

December 14th, 2018 UPDATE: 

There is a Port Commission meeting on Monday afternoon (December 17, 2018).

The MSB manager will give an update on the Alberta to Alaska Railway project (which he did not introduce at the Dec 11th Assembly meeting as promised) AND the Port manager will give an update on EARTHQUAKE DAMAGE…Was there any damage to the Port from the earthquake?

January 19, 2019 UPDATE:

There is a Port Commission meeting on Monday, January 21st, 2019 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.)

The A2A project is on the agenda again.  (Note: The manager recently announced that he will not bring anything forward to the Assembly until at least February.)

msb a 2 a

Links to read:

http://www.a2arail.com/index.html

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2018/03/07/opinion/fatal-flaw-albertas-oil-expansion?fbclid=IwAR0iwmO_eOxbDdtD8ws-KU2MudWtIih6Eiqnqh6xpdZqoa6T1T5eAxqCXlM

https://www.jwnenergy.com/article/2017/12/two-rival-groups-promoting-same-alberta-alaska-oil-rail-proposal/?fbclid=IwAR2fTD8cZrFLn8Stmmk_jTw46vYK4s3X42iXvM5g4Pb_dUeA2vaUuCpYFwI

 

 

 

Off-site Meetings are Problematic

Why is the MSB Assembly holding a “Planning” Meeting at Turkey Red (in the restaurant’s small conference room) instead of at their Chambers which is located just down the street at the main MSB Building?

turkey red 2.PNG

 

turkey red

(This was originally posted on the Facebook group “Borough Budget Watch.”)

OFF SITE MEETINGS:

Eugene Haberman has alerted me to the problem of the MSB Assembly holding off site meetings. Mr. Haberman thinks this practice should STOP because public meetings need to be accessible and they should always be video-recorded.

When the MSB Assembly holds meetings off site, the meetings are not recorded properly. There is no video and often, there isn’t even any audio. Also, they are sometimes held at unusual times.

That is the point – says Mr. Haberman! “Out of sight; out of mind.” He thinks perhaps the MSB Assembly holds these odd meetings from time to time to discourage the public from attending or being able to watch or listen to the meeting later.

The MSB Assembly is holding a “planning meeting” on Saturday Jan 19th at 10 a.m. at the Turkey Red restaurant conference room.

Why doesn’t the Assembly hold this meeting at their own Assembly chambers where the Granicus video/audio recording system is located? Also, there is more parking and seating for the public at the main MSB building. The Turkey Red conference room is very small.

Additionally, with a Saturday meeting, are we paying staff members overtime?

Also, this past week, there was a joint Legislative/Assembly meeting held over at the LIO office in Wasilla. (10 a.m. Jan 3rd.) Mr. Haberman said the room was very small – too small for the crowd assembled – AND to his knowledge, it was not recorded. This was a shame because a lot of important information was shared and many important comments were made by the attendees.

Why wasn’t that meeting held at the Assembly chambers too and live streamed?

Here are more examples of  recent “Off-site” meetings for which the MSB does not post any audio or video on their website.

The LIO meeting in Wasilla, a Budget meeting in Willow, and a general meeting in Talkeetna.

lio meetingwillowtalkeetna

If the public wants to listen to these meetings, they have to do a “public records request” to get the audio.

Note: However, the Talkeetna meeting’s audio was “garbled” and thus not available at all.

MSB paid William F. Gamble, former Director of EMS, a $80,000 “legal settlement” in April, 2017

Newly released public records show that the Mat-Su Borough paid out $80,000 as part of a legal settlement and release agreement to William F. Gamble, the former Director of Emergency Services, in April, 2017.

Mr. Gamble was the Director of EMS from April 2015 until January 2017 when the MSB replaced him with Otto Feather. (Note Otto Feather’s resignation was announced this week. See link to ADN story below.)

So far, the MSB has not explained why it paid Mr. Gamble $80,000.

w gamble 2

 

This payout was noted in the 2018 budget documents without any details:

w gamble 1

 

w gamble 5w gamble 6w gamble 3w gamble 4

ADN story about Otto Feather’s resignation:

otto

https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/mat-su/2019/01/16/top-mat-su-emergency-official-resigns-citing-sabotage/