The MSB Attorney’s lack of transparency at Assembly meetings

The Mat-Su Borough’s Attorney is given time at each and every Assembly meeting to give a report. This report is not just for the Assembly members; it is for the PUBLIC. (The Manager and Clerk are also given regular time slots to provide information at each meeting.)

Here are the Assembly meeting minutes for June 5, 2018.  What is missing from the Attorney’s report? BASIC INFORMATION.

Clearly, the Attorney is referring to the lawsuit filed by (former MSB Deputy Director of EMS) Lisa Behrens against the MSB.  (Lawsuit was filed on May 22, 2018.) But he gives out ZERO information.  Instead he announces that a mysterious lawsuit (or lawsuits) have been filed and that the Assembly members may come see him in his office if they have any questions.

The public deserves to have basic information about any new lawsuits.  We have the right to know the name of the case, what court it was filed in, and the case number.

The attorney (who is paid from public funds and represents the Mat-Su Borough) needs to announce: The MSB (and the Director of EMS and the Manager) have been sued by former MSB employee Lisa Behrens. The lawsuit is case 3PA-18-1703 CI. The MSB has hired Perkins Coie to represent us. We estimate this may cost us 100K in legal fees etc. Obviously, the MSB attorney is not expected to comment on the merits of the case – but the public certainly deserves to know the basic facts  – a lawsuit was filed; case name; and a case number, etc.

The MSB is not a private entity. It is our local government. The MSB needs to disclose basic information to us. I never would have found this case except that I happened to be looking at the Palmer Court calendar the other day (early August 2018) and saw that this case was set for a Pre-Trial conference. I should have found out about it via the MSB Atty’s comments TWO MONTHS AGO at the June 5th Assembly meeting.

This is why we have a regular section set aside at each Assembly meeting for — ding ding ding — Report from the Attorney. A report is not – hey, some mysterious lawsuit was filed and members please come to my office to discuss it behind closed doors. The report is for the PUBLIC and the report needs to give the public some modicum of information – at least a case name and number.

The MSB should not HIDE this type of basic information.

 

MSB Lawsuits

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Former MSB Deputy Director of Emergency Services files lawsuit against the MSB

Lisa A. Behrens, the former Deputy Director of Emergency Services for the Mat-Su Borough, has filed a lawsuit against the Borough, Paul “Otto” Feather, the Director of Emergency Services for the MSB, and John Moosey, the Manager for the MSB.

Ms. Behrens’ complaint, which was filed on May 22, 2018, in Palmer Superior Court, alleges seventeen claims for relief, including wrongful termination, libel/slander, and discrimination.  She has retained attorney Ronald Offret of Aglietti, Offret and Woofter of Anchorage.

Ms. Behrens alleges that she was not permitted to receive PERS retirement benefits; that she was terminated from her employment without just cause; that the defendants intentionally and/or negligently libeled, slandered, and defamed her by fabricating allegations against her personal and professional reputations; that the defendants intentionally and/or negligently inflicted emotional distress upon her; that they illegally retaliated against her by terminating her employment after she communicated to the MSB Assembly within the lawful performance of her duties; that she was discriminated against because she is a woman; that she endured a hostile work environment; and that she was denied a meaningful investigation into her complaints.

The Mat-Su Borough has denied all of the allegations.  The MSB has retained attorneys Danielle Ryman and Jared Gardner of Perkins Coie, LLP.

A pretrial conference was held yesterday – August 2, 2018 – in front of the Judge assigned to the case – Honorable Kari Kristiansen.

The trial, which may take three weeks, was scheduled for September 2, 2019. A further pre-trial conference is scheduled for June 10, 2019.  In the interim, the parties will be conducting discovery (depositions; interrogatories, etc.)

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Ms. Behrens’ complaint is set forth below:

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The Mat-Su Borough’s Answer to Complaint is set forth below:

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More Background:

Drone Racing Park Update

I sent an email to the Parks and Recs Board members and the MSB Parks and Recs staff person (Hugh Leslie) on May 21st asking a lot of questions about the proposed Drone Racing Park and proposed Management agreement.  However, I did not get any response.

MSB Drone Park email May 21 2018

Here are some of the Facebook screen shots referred to in my email.  (Mr. Colligan has since deleted his comments.)

 

The Drone Racing Park issue was discussed at the May 21st Parks and Recs meeting but the discussion was continued to their next meeting which was held this week.

Here is the agenda for the Parks and Recs Board’s June 25th meeting:

MSB PRTAB agenda

When I saw the agenda for the latest PRTAB meeting, I sent another email (to the same group) asking for more information – including a copy of the proposed management agreement:

MSB PRTAB email 2

The MSB staff person did not respond.  There are a LOT of unanswered questions about this proposed Drone Racing Park.

How can the public and the Parks and Recs board evaluate a proposal if we can’t actually review the proposal – i..e the proposed management agreement and site plans ??

A member of the Board did reply and suggested that I just attend the meeting. I explained that I was unable to do so because I had another activity to attend.  The next day she reported back about what happened at the meeting: No action was taken on the Drone Racing Park issue and there were no additional documents provided.  The Board requested more information and it will probably be online for the next meeting – July.

Then I noticed that there is also a meeting this week of the MSB Aviation Advisory Board and that the Drone Racing Park is also an item on that agenda.  (This is the Aviation board’s first meeting since February. It is odd that this agenda says “Drone Racing League Application UPDATE” as I didn’t see the Drone item on their February meeting agenda.)

MSB Aviation Board agenda

In the Aviation Advisory Board meeting packet, there is information from the Drone League:

MSB Aviation Board packet June 26 2018

Here are two highlighted pages from the Drone League’s documents:

 

My analysis:  The Drone League wants complete control of 50 acres. Also they seem to say – oh, we’ll agree to some joint use of our acreage – but it has to be “scheduled” joint use – i.e., no one can use this area unless they get permission ahead of time.  That is baloney.

I see a fuzzy picture of an airport.  Are they planning to build an airport?  The Drone League also mentions control of a “shared” parking lot.  What parking lot is this? Are they planning to build (or have the MSB build) a new parking lot near their new aiport or are they talking about a parking lot already at Jim Creek?

The Drone League seems to want the MSB to go in with them to obtain funding opportunities.  Of course they do.

This propsed project and the way the MSB has handled it stinks to high heaven.  The Drone League needs to buy their own land and build their own infrastructure.

Why should the MSB be pushed into assisting with this pet project of (former Assembly member) Steve Colligan’s??? Especially when his private business interests intersect so completely with his drone hobby.  What is the percentage of people in the MSB who are into drone racing? It is very small.  Who does this proposed Drone Racing Park really benefit??

Analysis of the MSHF’s 2016 tax return

This is the most recent tax return for the Mat-Su Health Foundation.

MSHF 2016 tax return

Let’s analyze this return.  How did the MSHF spend our community’s money?

In 2016, the MSHF had total revenues of $34 million.  ($1.1 million from contributions/grants; $25 million from the hospital – i.e. the community paying for medical care; and $8.6 million from investment income.)

The MSHF gave out $4.3 million in grants.  (However, how the MSHF characterizes “grants” is analyzed further below.) It spent $1.388 million on salaries and benefits.  And it had $1.75 million in expenses.

So, to give out grants of $4.3 million, the MSHF spent $3.14 million on itself.

Note: This tax return is for 2016 which is PRIOR to MSHF incurring the major expenses of building their huge new building.  The MSHF moved into their new building located at 777 Crusey Street, Wasilla, in the Spring of 2018.  We will have to wait until the 2017 and 2018 tax returns are released to see how much the MSHF spent on the new building.

Yes, the MSHF is going to argue that some of their expenses are “Program Services” expenses – i.e., they provide services, too, and don’t just give out grants.  But, this ratio is NOT good.  And the MSHF doesn’t really provide much in the way of services.  (Yes, I know all about R.O.C.K. Mat-Su.) In my opinion, non profits trump up “program services” as a way to justify spending $$$ on themselves.

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The highest salaries are the Executive Director and the Financial Officer.

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Here is the listing for the MSHF’s share of the profits from the hospital.  The MSHF (legal name is Valley Hospital Association) owns 34% of the for-profit hospital.  So, if the MSHF’s share was almost $25 million in 2016, then the hospital made approx. $72 million in profits.

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Here is the page which details the MSHF’s expenses.  This organization, which had only approximately 12 employees in 2016, spent $51K on travel and $52K on conferences.

They also paid 770K in interest – what is this for?  And 72K in advocacy expenses. Is this the cost of their lobbyist/s?

They had almost 50K in “Board of Director” expenses. Note: the MSHF’s board meetings are CLOSED to the public.  So, except for the annual tax return, the public is only allowed access to information that the MSHF decides that it will disclose.

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The MSHF does list out grants in their tax return.  They gave 88 people money for scholarships. $386,477 divided by 88 is an average of $4,391 each student.

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Here are other selected grants:

The MSHF gave 7K to the Special Santa program.

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The MSHF had several listings for “cash grants” to the Foraker Group.  The Foraker Group is the “non profit non profit” in Anchorage that provides training and expertise to other non profits.  Elizabeth Ripley is the President of the Board of Directors at Foraker.

My analysis of these “grants” to Foraker is – these grants are self-interested.  They don’t really help the Mat-Su Valley community with health and wellness per se; they help the non profit “industry.” And it is an “industry.”

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There are also six grants listed for Kennedy and Associates for a total of $57,438.  These amounts seem to be payments made for people (likely MSHF staffers or employees of affiliated non profits) to attend this (for profit) consulting company’s non profit leadership program.  Why is the MSHF listing these amounts as “grants” given out when this is really just conferences/workshops that staffers/employees are attending?

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Here is another grant to a foundation that simply supports the Non Profit Industry.  10K to the Rasmuson Foundation for the “Grantmakers” tour.

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The MSHF gave out a “grant” to the State Dept. of Health and Human Services in order to obtain Medicaid data for the McDowell group (a consulting group.)  Now – the Mat-Su Health Foundation has used McDowell’s services for numerous studies.  So, to me – this “grant” is self-serving.  It also should be characterized as an EXPENSE not a grant.  (I also think that the MSHF’s lobbying efforts supporting expanded Medicaid were also self-serving.  The MSHF and its for profit partner – the MSRMC – benefit from more people being able to obtain and pay for medical services with Medicaid. But, the American taxpayers are footing the bills.)

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And here is a “Grant” to the Anchorage Law firm “Davis, Wright, Tremaine” for Professional services related to the Mat-Su Trails and Parks organization.  The Mat-Su Trails and Parks group was set up by the MSHF and it is almost entirely supported by the MSHF.  I think the trails group had a few issues in 2016 – hence these attorney costs.

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NOTE: In my opinion, all of the “grants” listed to Foraker, Kennedy and Associates, Rasmuson, DHSS, and the Anchorage law firm should have been listed in EXPENSES on this tax return. I think that the MSHF was trying to list more items in “grants” instead of expenses so that it looks like they gave out more $ in grants versus spending so much on expenses for themselves.

The MSHF gave money to both the “Heart Reach Pregnancy” Center (which is pro-life; they built a new building around 2016) and “Planned Parenthood” (which is pro-choice.)

 

The MSHF gave out several other larger grants – to the Palmer Senior Center; the Sunshine Health Clinic, the Children’s Place, and Ptarmigan Pediatrics.

 

Giving out the larger grants is fine – and fairly simple to do.  Seriously, how difficult is it to make a decision to give a few hundred thousand to established social services non profits like the Palmer Senior Center or the Sunshine Health Clinic?

I don’t understand why the MSHF needs to spend so much money on themselves to give out grants.

COMPARISON TO PREVIOUS YEARS:

The MSHF in 2016 gave out LESS money in grants than in the two previous years – 2014 and 2015 – and yet, they had much more revenue!

Here is their 2015 tax return, which show that they gave out $6,091.871 in grants in 2014 and $5,333,336 in 2015.  The MSHF gave out only $4,308,005 in 2016.  This amount should be getting larger each year NOT smaller!!!

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Federal Tax Liens

This post explains how to look up federal tax liens.

Sometimes it is helpful to know whether or not a business entity or individual has any current tax liens against them.

What is a federal tax lien?  This is from the Internal Revenue Service’s website:

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How to look up on federal tax liens on the Alaska Recorder’s Office website:

Go to the State of Alaska website.  Find the section for the Department of Natural Resources.  DNR contains the statewide recorders’ office.  You can do a search of all filings by name.  This will bring up all sorts of recorded documents – mostly pertaining to property – but it also brings up various types of liens and other UCC filings.

 

You can search for a specific person.  For an example, I searched for Dr. Larry Lawson, the local oncologist who owns Midnight Sun Oncology, who has been in the news lately for his tax troubles.  Here is the IRS tax lien from 2011 and also the release of the lien a few months later (i.e., he paid the IRS and they released the lien.) (FYI – if you are doing a search of liens, be aware that oftentimes a lien is released and is no longer current.)

 

OR, you can use “Internal Revenue Service” as the name.   This is a way to bring up all IRS liens without having to enter a specific name.

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This will bring up thousands of results for all Recording Districts starting with liens filed in the 1970s in District 101.

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However, you can narrow your search to a single Recording District and a single year.  Just highlight and change the District and Year to the specifics you want to find.

District 311 is Palmer.  I think 301 is Anchorage.  So, here are some results for the Palmer District for 2018.

Note: I won’t share any names, but if you do this search, you will find some interesting results.

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Dr. Larry Lawson case UPDATE

Dr. Lawson’s team of attorneys has been aggressively litigating his case and has filed many, many motions.

To recap, Dr. Lawson was indicted on October 18, 2016. The trial in his case was originally scheduled for February 2, 2017 and rescheduled to January 29, 2018 and then rescheduled again.

It is currently set to take place beginning on August 27, 2018.

Here is the entire Docket Report to date:

Dr. Lawson’s Motion to Dismiss Count Five was denied on March 20th, 2018. (Docket Entry 199.)  Dr. Lawson filed a Motion for Reconsideration of this Order on April 12th (Docket 208).  The court has not yet issued a final ruling on the Motion for Reconsideration.

Dr. Lawson has also filed a Motion to Suppress, a dozen Motions in Limine, a Motion to Strike, a Motion to Compel Discovery, and most recently, a Motion for a Hearing and Request for Additional Remedies.

This latest motion (Docket 231) and all of the related attachments is very interesting:

Docket 232: Lawson Motion for Evid Hrg and for Addtl Remedies

Docket 233: Lawson Declaration of Amber Kimmel

Docket 234: Lawson Declaration Tonya Barber

Here is the US Government’s Response:

Docket 248: Lawson USA Opposition to Motion for Addtl Remedies

The US Magistrate overseeing the case issued a notice last week that due to all of the recent filings, the scheduled June 20th evidentiary hearing will now be simply a status hearing.

Lawson order re status hrg June 20 2018

Here are other interesting filings that give more details about this tax fraud case:

Lawson Docket 185 Exhibit C

Lawson Docket 185 Exhibit F

Lawson Docket 185 Exhibit K

Lawson Docket 185 Exhibit P