The City of Palmer hires one of its own or “Rules are Made to be Broken”

The City of Palmer advertised for a new Community Development Director in late March, 2018.

City of Palmer AML ad

Here is the full listing:

City of Palmer CDD-Job-Posting

Just two weeks after the closing date of April 13th, a curious action item appeared on the Palmer City Council’s May 1st meeting agenda:

This Action Memorandum was submitted by Mayor De Vries but it was not signed off on by anyone else – not the Attorney or the Manager or Clerk, etc.

According to the meeting minutes, the Council voted unanimously in favor of this exception with no discussion.

Question:  This item was introduced and voted on at one meeting…with little to no discussion.  Did the Council Members know about this issue/topic prior to the Palmer City Council meeting? If so, when was it discussed by the members? What about the Open Meetings Act requirements?

City of Palmer Exception

Thus, longtime Palmer City Council member Brad Hanson was hired to be Palmer’s Community Development Director at a salary of $83,000 plus benefits.

https://www.frontiersman.com/news/hanson-resigns-from-palmer-city-council-members-remain-skeptical-about/article_40799242-50ff-11e8-ac31-1b7a8d1eabf3.html

And now Palmer is accepting applications to fill Mr. Hanson’s seat until the regular election in October. (Mr. Hanson was only re-elected in the fall of 2017.)

Palmer city council vacancy

When I posted about this on Facebook, a man commented that: “If Mr. Hanson is quantifiably more qualified that the other eight candidates. Then this is proper and a non issue.”

My response: Maybe so, but I wonder if he had an “inside edge” since he was on the Council for almost 20 years and worked with and knew the people doing the hiring. I wonder why the City of Palmer (and government entities across the USA ) even bother to have this prohibition in the first place if it does not matter at all. 

Someone ought to do a Public Records request to find out more about the hiring process for this job and who the other 8 candidates were.

Advertisements

More UFO activity

MSB Jim Creek Proposed RC Park

This is on the Agenda at next week’s MSB Parks and Recs Advisory Committee Meeting (to be held out in Willow – which seems like an odd place to hold this meeting considering the Jim Creek Master Plan is at issue!)

This is a follow-up to my UFVs and UFOs post about the new MSB Ordinance exempting drone racing from the permitting process when I noted that the ordinance seemed to benefit one group in particular – former Assembly member Stephen Colligan’s Drone Racing League.   Mr. Colligan’s term ended just last fall.

https://matsumuckraker.com/2018/03/24/ufvs-and-ufos/

So, now, the MSB has revealed the entire plan. The MSB wants to sign a “Management Agreement” with this group to allow them to develop 50 acres at Jim Creek – to include a runway, etc.

And this proposed development does NOT conform to the Jim Creek Master Plan.

Hmmmm….

Here is the complete meeting packet:

MSB Jim Creek Drone may-21st-prtab-meeting-packet

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Drones are not just Mr. Colligan’s hobby (he is the founder and President of the Alaska Drone Racing League), they are his business.

Mr. Colligan owns 3GLP, Inc. (Website is 3GLP.net).  3GLP’s companies include E-Terra and Precision Flight Devices or PFD (www.PrecisionFlightDevices.com).  PFD concentrates on “Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Sensors, and Aviation Consulting.”  PFD offers all sorts of drone-related services including training.

So this begs the question – if and when the “Drone Racing League” signs a “management agreement” and gets permission to build more infrastructure on the 50 acre “drone park” at Jim Creek- does this mean that they will control all access to this area? Will their members be allowed to use the park for commercial or business purposes? In other words, suppose a Drone Racing League member has a separate private company and wants to demonstrate or test some equipment for sale and/or train a client?? Can they use the park for this purpose? Is this a fair and proper use of our public property?

Colligan biz

Mr. Colligan’s profile from LinkedIn:

Colligan Linkedn

Precision Flight Devices (PFD) issued a press release in the fall of 2016 to discuss its training program:

 

 

More on Mr. Colligan’s Non Profit and For Profit entities:

There seems to be a lot of overlap between all of Mr. Colligan’s drone companies – the non profit entities and the for profit entities.

Mr. Colligan set up the AK Drone Racing League, a non profit.  He also set up NRDDI – the “Northern Regions Research and Development Institute” – another non profit – which he has registered as a federal vendor and which has received at least a couple of fed. gov’t grants.

NRRDI grants

 

According to the Alaska Drone Racing League – AKDRL – their partners are NRDDI, the non-profit/gov’t vendor, and PFD, the for profit drone company.

 

 

Special Interest Groups:

Why is the MSB allowing the Drone Racing League to set up a park on MSB property? What about other non profits?  Are we now going to allow any non profit to set up special infrastructure on MSB land and enter into “management agreements” to control certain areas?

Great Land Trust and Su-Knik Wetlands Mitigation Bank Public Records

Update:

This is information garnered from one of the Pioneer Reserve lawsuits.  This legal memorandum discloses that the Su-Knik Wetlands Mitigation Bank has sold almost $2 million in “mitigation credits” since 2010.

Su Knik total sales

Interesting Financial Documents.

The Great Land Trust:

2017 GLT ILF Program Year End Report_2.26.18

GLT 2017 annual monitoring reports_reduced

 

Su-Knik:

2017 Su Knik Mitigation Bank Annual Long Term Manager Report

Su Knik Mitigation Bank Annual Report 2017

Appendix A. Stantec Monitoring Report 2017

Appendix C. Su Knik September 2017 Trust Account

Books about the Mat-Su Valley

While there are thousands of “Alaskana” books, there are not very many books which focus on the Mat-Su Valley.

Here are some non-fiction Mat-Su Valley books:

book frozen shield

Frozen Shield: Alaska Cover-Up by Nick Mangieri.  (2000) The author was the Chief of Police for Palmer for just six months in 1975 before he was fired by the City Manager.

From the back cover: “Newly-appointed police chief, Nick Mangieri, was a man with a mission. A daunting task awaited him in the remote Alaskan town that would now be his home.  Expected to rejuvenate the small police agency, he soon discovered that his staff’s morale was low and departmental organization was as precarious as the arctic winds.  With a savvy blend of skill and experience, he restructured the agency, implemented changes that garnered the respect and admiration of his Law Enforcement peers…But the local politicians had other ideas. Nick discovered that the city fathers were enmeshed in a labyrinth of crime and treachery. Crooked judges, illegal land deals and car-bombings were only some of the challenges he faced, laws broken by the lawmakers. Like Diogenes’ quest for an honest man, Nick struggled to find justice…”

book cures and chaos

Cures and Chaos: The Life & Times of Dr. Vincent Hume and His Impact on a Frontier Alaska Town by Joseph Homme. (2007)

This is a biography of Dr. Hume who worked as a doctor in Palmer in the 1960s.

“Dr. Vincent Hume was a charismatic physician, gifted with legendary talents for healing the sick. But there was a mysterious component to his personality, an element of the streets that ran counter to his pedestal position in the frontier Alaska community he served. Over the course of a decade, the origins of his street smarts, combined with a progressive illness and tragic personal events, conspired in his undoing. It was an excruciating public downfall of a respected surgeon, husband, father, friend, and neighbor; a downfall that ignited a public uproar that threatened the very fabric of the small, close knit community.”

Note: A relative of my family was Dr. Hume’s longtime secretary.

book joe mc

The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin by Joe McGinniss. (2011).

This book got terrible reviews but I really enjoyed it anyways because it features many Valley folks – not just Sarah Palin.  Everyone who is anyone in the Mat-Su Valley is in this book.  I got to meet the author when he was here doing research. I was invited to a small gathering at a prominent Valley resident’s home and we all sat out on her deck and chatted with Mr. McGinniss for hours on a beautiful summer night about our community and gave him leads to follow up on etc.

“After three years of research, bestselling journalist Joe McGinniss presents his already controversial and much anticipated investigative chronicle of Sarah Palin as an individual, politician, and cultural phenomenon.   In his critically acclaimed book about Alaska, Going to Extremes, the fledgling state itself was Joe McGinniss’s subject. Although he didn’t hesitate to reveal the many flaws and contradictions behind its “last frontier” image, McGinniss fell in love with the land and its people. More than three decades later, he returned to Alaska in search of its most famous resident, Sarah Palin. On Election Day 2008, McGinniss began his on-the-ground reporting that culminated, famously, in his moving next door to Sarah Palin in spring 2010. THE ROGUE is the eagerly awaited result of his research and writing: a startling study of the illusion and reality of Sarah Palin—and a probing look at the Alaska and the America that produced her. Sometimes funny, sometimes frightening, always provocative and illuminating, THE ROGUE answers the questions “Who is she, really?,” “How did she happen?,” and “Will she ever go away?” In all of his books, McGinniss has scrutinized the mysterious space between image and reality—how that space is created, negotiated, and/or manipulated. Now, with The Rogue, McGinniss combines his deep appreciation of the place Sarah Palin comes from with his uncanny ability to penetrate the façades of people in public life. The result is an extraordinary double narrative that alternately traces Palin’s curious rise to political prominence and worldwide celebrity status and recounts the author’s day-to-day experiences as he uncovers the messy reality beneath the glossy Palin myth. Readers will find THE ROGUE at once bitingly insightful, hilarious, and profoundly ominous in what it reveals…”

book homesteaders

Homesteaders in the Headlights: One family’s Journey from a Depression-era New Jersey Farm to a new life in Wasilla, Alaska by George Harbeson, Jr. (2004)

The Harbeson family was hard to miss in Wasilla, Alaska, in the mid-1950s and the ’60s.
George and Katherine Harbeson were deeply involved in the Valley community, from basketball to the Mat-Su Bookmobile, the Wasilla Library, and the Wasilla-Knik-Willow historical museums. George, a dedicated teacher, was also an influential figure in education and local and state politics.

George Harbeson Jr. writes of his parents’ early lives and the family’s years in Knik and Wasilla with a focus on the universal challenges and rewards of homesteading. Within the framework of school and community activities are tales of friendships and folly, recalcitrant vehicles, basketball dreams, rabbit-hunting cats and faithful canines, wildlife and home life.

“When I moved to Wasilla in 1963, George was an active citizen and popular teacher,
involved in community affairs and politics. One of my daughter’s most vivid high school memories is of listening to Mr. Harbeson read aloud John Steinbeck’s 
The Red Pony, and my son-in-law still recalls Mr. Harbeson’s explanation of how the mill rate works. …”
— From the Introduction by Katie Hurley, Chief Clerk to the Alaska Constitutional Convention.

book butcher baker

Butcher, Baker: A True Account of a Serial Murderer by Walter Gilmour and Leland Hale. (1991)

Fair Game: The Definitive Account of the Crimes of Alaska Serial Killer Robert Hansen by Bernard Duclos. (2013)

These two books are about serial killer Robert Hansen whose victims were taken to a remote part of the Mat-Su Valley and murdered.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Hansen

book tom brennan

Murder at 40 Below (2001) and Cold Crime (2005) by Tom Brennan.

book kizzia

Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier by Tom Kizzia (2013).

This book is very well done but painful to read. The Hale family settled in the Mat-Su Valley after they left their homestead in the Wrangell-St. Elias area.

“When Papa Pilgrim appeared in the Alaska frontier outpost of McCarthy with his wife and fifteen children in tow, his new neighbors had little idea of the trouble to come. The Pilgrim Family presented themselves as a shining example of the homespun Christian ideal, with their proud piety and beautiful old-timey music, but their true story ran dark and deep. Within weeks, Papa had bulldozed a road through the mountains to the new family home at an abandoned copper mine, sparking a tense confrontation with the National Park Service and forcing his ghost town neighbors to take sides in an ever-more volatile battle over where a citizen’s rights end and the government’s power begins.

In Pilgrim’s Wilderness, veteran Alaska journalist Tom Kizzia unfolds the remarkable, at times harrowing, story of a charismatic spinner of American myths who was not what he seemed, the townspeople caught in his thrall, and the family he brought to the brink of ruin. As Kizzia discovered, Papa Pilgrim was in fact the son of a rich Texas family with ties to Hoover’s FBI and strange, oblique connections to the Kennedy assassination and the movie stars of Easy Rider. And as his fight with the government in Alaska grew more intense, the turmoil in his brood made it increasingly difficult to tell whether his children were messianic followers or hostages in desperate need of rescue. In this powerful piece of Americana, written with uncommon grace and high drama, Kizzia uses his unparalleled access to capture an era-defining clash between environmentalists and pioneers ignited by a mesmerizing sociopath who held a town and a family captive.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Allen_Hale

book ashley dickerson

Delayed Justice for Sale by M. Ashley Dickerson (1998).

This is a memoir by longtime Alaskan attorney and Wasilla resident M. Ashley Dickerson, who was one of the first Black women attorneys in the U.S.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahala_Ashley_Dickerson

Her obituary:

Mahala Ashley Dickerson, Alaska’s first black lawyer, died Monday at
her family homestead in Wasilla after a short illness. She was 94.

Dickerson, who was raised in the South before the era of civil rights,
blazed a trail for black women in the world of law. Aside from her
accomplishments in Alaska, she became the first female attorney in her
home state of Alabama in 1948 and the second black woman admitted to
the bar in Indiana in 1951. She was also the first black homesteader
in the Mat-Su region of Alaska.

Attorney Rex Butler, whom Dickerson persuaded to come to Anchorage,
said, “I remember one lawyer telling me one time, he said, `Rex, you
see those mountains out there?’ He said, `Those mountains are littered
with the bones of lawyers who underestimated M. Ashley Dickerson.”’

Dickerson had a reputation as an advocate for the poor and
underprivileged. She argued many cases involving racial and gender
discrimination, taking on the Anchorage Police Department and the
University of Alaska, among other institutions.

“In my life, I didn’t have but two things to do. Those were to stay
black and to die. I’m just not afraid to fight somebody big,” she told
the Anchorage Daily News in 1984, when, at age 71, she was still
working 12-hour days at her law office. “Whenever there’s somebody
being mistreated, if they want me, I’ll help them.”

Dickerson grew up in Alabama on a plantation owned by her father. She
attended a private school, Miss White’s School, where she began a
lifelong friendship with Rosa Parks, who would become a hero of the
civil rights movement.

Dickerson graduated from Fisk University in 1935, married Henry
Dickerson and had triplets, Alfred, John and Chris. She later
divorced, and when the boys were 6, she went to Howard University
School of Law, becoming one of four women to graduate in her class of
`36. After working as an attorney in Alabama and Indiana, she moved to
Alaska with her sons, where she homesteaded.

“I didn’t know a single person, and there were very few black people
in Alaska then, but everyone welcomed me, white and black alike,” she
said in a 2001 interview.

Dickerson opened her law practice in Anchorage in 1959, and her name
is still on the answering machine, along with that of her long-time
law partner, Johnny Gibbons. In 1995, she was awarded the Margaret
Brent Award from the American Bar Association, an honor also given to
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day
O’Connor, a justice of the nation’s top court who has since retired.

Dickerson wrote a book about her life, “Delayed Justice for Sale,” in
1998. She continued to practice law until she was 91.

In addition to encouraging Butler to practice in Anchorage, she was a
mentor to many other young attorneys, Butler said.

Dickerson often took clients who didn’t have the means to pay, said
Leroy Barker, the historian for the Alaska State Bar Association, who
practiced law with Dickerson in the 1960s.

“I don’t think anybody thought of her as a black woman lawyer; she was
just a lawyer,” he said. “I think she worked very hard to get where
she was, and she was a strong personality.”

Joshua Wright, an Anchorage dentist, was a friend of Dickerson from
the time she moved to Alaska. He remembered her as “a fighter.”

“When she was younger, oh, God, when she got on a roll, you better
clear out the room,” he said, laughing.

He and his wife visited Dickerson over the weekend. She’d been lucid
until a stroke a few weeks ago that left her without speech, he said.
She responded to them in the room, he said, and when they left, she
smiled and closed her eyes.

“That’s our lasting picture of her,” he said.

Dickerson’s legacy will be the way she overcame obstacles, giving back
to the community, said Celeste Hodge, former local head of the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who now
runs Mayor Mark Begich’s office of equal opportunity.

“Once you know her story, especially as an African-American woman, you
know that you are able to achieve anything,” Hodge said.

Dickerson will be buried on her land near her son, Alfred, who died in
1960. Sons John and Chris planned to attend a private Quaker graveside
service Wednesday. A memorial will be held at a later date.

 

And here are two history books about the Matanuska Colony:

book colony

book colony two

Laughing all the way to the Wetlands Mitigation Bank $$$

Laughing all way to bank

There was a presentation about the “Su-Knik Wetlands Mitigation Bank” at this week’s MSB Assembly meeting (April 17, 2018).

The Su-Knik Wetlands Mitigation Bank is a public-private partnership.  It is sponsored by the MSB and Sustainable Environments LLC and/or Su-Knik Environments LLC.  The MSB owns the land – which is public land – in fee simple; and the MSB and the private environmental company jointly own the wetland mitigation rights.

(Note: The name and ownership of the private environmental company is very confusing.  See more at the end of this blog post.)

041718 – Su Knik Wetland Mitigation Presentation Docs

What is Wetlands Mitigation Banking? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitigation_banking

https://www.epa.gov/cwa-404/compensatory-mitigation

A Wetland Mitigation Bank is a mitigation option that can be used when a developer requests a permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers to fill jurisdictional wetlands. Based on the amount and type of wetlands filled the developer is required to provide mitigation. The developer has three options for mitigation- on site mitigation, paying an in-lieu-fee or purchasing credits in a mitigation bank.

The Su-Knik presentation was given by Jerome Ryan.  Mr. Ryan is an “Environmental Entrepreneur” from California who has a financial stake in the Su-Knik Mitigation Bank.  He is a founding partner of “Su-Knik Environments LLC.” He also has stakes in several other for-profit “environmental” companies.

Mr. Ryan’s LinkedN : JeromeRyanProfile

https://www.swig-llc.com/

https://alliancerally.org/speaker/jerome-ryan/

(^ He seems to have invented the term “Eco-Asset Opportunities“!)

https://www.goskagit.com/news/banking-wetlands/article_f854de53-e16c-5fb6-9a1d-63b84d8804ae.html

What prompted Mr. Ryan to travel from his base of operations in the San Francisco Bay area to Palmer Alaska right now?

Although Mr. Ryan’s presentation was framed as a “Let’s save our environment/Our wetlands!” pep talk to the Mat-Su Valley community, a more accurate title for his talk would be: SHOW ME THE MONEY!!! 

The Donlin Gold Mine needs to do environmental mitigation for its proposed Crooked Creek Gold mining project.  Mr. Ryan (and the MSB) want Donlin Gold LLC to buy mitigation credits from the Su-Knik Mitigation Bank. (See the March 8, 2018 letter from MSB Manager John Moosey in the presentation documents above. This was undoubtedly drafted by Mr. Ryan.)  It is probably way too late for the the Su-Knik mitigation bank to get in on the Donlin gold-mining environmental mitigation action because The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority has already announced that Donlin is buying 1,933 acres of wetlands from them for $1.5 million.

Scan_20180420

Scan_20180420 (2)

Scan_20180420 (3)

Scan_20180420 (4)

Scan_20180420 (5)

Scan_20180420 (6)

Scan_20180420 (7)

https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/2018/04/20/army-corps-to-publish-final-donlin-mine-environmental-review-april-27/

In any case, there are other potential projects out there that may require developers to purchase Wetlands Mitigation Bank credits.  Mr. Ryan mentioned one of them – the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline.  And of course, there is the AGDC.

ASAPDraftWetlandsCompensatoryMitigationPlanNov2016

So, clearly, Mr. Ryan came up here to motivate the MSB to get busy promoting the Su-Knik Mitigation Bank and trying to sell our (mostly his!) MITIGATION CREDITS.

Why is the MSB financially tied up with Mr. Ryan in a Wetlands Mitigation Bank? 

Back in the mid 2000s, Mr. Ryan and his partners – James B. “Jake” Hodge (an attorney now based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming) and Kevin Noon (an environmental scientist based in the Denver, Colorado area) – decided they wanted to do everything they could to save the environment up here in Alaska.  Actually what really probably happened is that they realized that the new concept of “Wetlands Mitigation Banking” could be very profitable.  So, they formed a company (“Sustainable Environments LLC” which later may have become “Su-Knik Environmentals LLC”) and “helped” the MSB set up a Wetlands Mitigation Bank.

Mr. Noon wrote this book:

Green Wealth

The MSB Assembly voted in favor of this venture and placed 12,000 acres of undeveloped Borough-owned wetlands “into” this bank.  Ryan, Hodge, and Noon contributed …well it is unclear exactly what they did beyond doing the paperwork to set up the Mitigation Bank and getting approval from ACE.  (The MSB had already been spending a lot of grant money researching and mapping our wetlands.) But for their work of setting up and “managing” this bank, they are making a small fortune.

The Su-Knik Mitigation Bank was approved by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2009.

Note: The Su-Knik Mitigation Bank is not the only Wetlands Mitigation Bank in Alaska, but it was one of the first ones set up.

http://www.suknikmitigationbank.com/

http://www.akbizmag.com/Alaska-Business-Monthly/December-2009/Corps-of-Engineers-implements-wetlands-mitigation-banking-in-Mat-Su/

Scan_20180418

Further note: Jerome Ryan and his partners seem to be a bit confused about the location of the Mat-Su Valley.  They used a Southeast Alaska Native symbol on their paperwork and they named their affiliated companies “SE Alaska LLC” and “Friends of SE Alaska LLC.” Um, we are in Southcentral Alaska, not Southeast Alaska.

Here is a copy of the “Umbrella Instrument” or the UMBI, which is the legal document establishing the Su-Knik Bank and listing the number and type of initial “credits” in the “bank”.

Su Knik Mitigation Bank UMBI

And here is an 2013 Amendment to the UMBI:  Su-Knik Bank Modification Request 2013

What is the MSB’s financial agreement with Mr. Ryan’s company? What is the value of these Wetlands Bank mitigation credits? How much money has the Su-Knik Bank made?  

During his presentation on Tuesday, Mr. Ryan revealed the terms of his agreement with the MSB.  For every credit sold by the Su-Knik Wetlands Bank, his company receives 60% while the MSB receives 40%.  WUT? Who negotiated this contract???? It is not as if these wetlands were owned by Mr. Ryan.  They are public lands owned by the MSB!

Wetland mitigation credits in Southcentral Alaska can cost developers anywhere from $10,000 to $122,000 per credit.  Of course, the price depends on supply and demand.  The financial details of mitigation bank credit sales are mostly kept under wraps by the entities involved.

Mr. Ryan pointed out during his talk that the Su-Knik Mitigation Bank has not sold any credits since 2014.  He explained that if the bank could sell the remaining credits (listed on our official federal ledger), the MSB stands to earn revenues of between $10 and $15 million (which means that Mr. Ryan and his partners stand to earn between $15 and $22.5 million.)

Here is the ledger (which does not contain financial info) on the Fed Government’s RIBITs site.

Su-Knik Ledger

However, the business of buying and selling mitigation credits has been slowing down in recent years.  The entrepreneurs (oops, I mean environmentalists) are complaining that the Army Corps of Engineers is not making developers buy their credits anymore.

https://www.alaskapublic.org/2017/11/30/army-corps-requires-less-wetlands-mitigation-in-alaska/

This is all I could find on the MSB’s website about the Su-Knik Bank’s finances. It is from an Assembly meeting on Feb 19, 2013, dealing with how to appropriate $283K in revenues from the Su-Knik mitigation bank.  I’m sure there must be more information some where, but the MSB makes it very difficult to find. I have asked the MSB for a full accounting for the Su-Knik bank (from its inception) but so far, I have not received any response.

Scan_20180420 (24)

I have also put in FOIA requests with the US ACE to find out more about the financials re: the Su-Knik Mitigation Bank (which is required to file yearly reports with the fed. gov’t) and have not yet received those documents.

Note: This is a page from the UMBI about Reporting and Accounting Procedures.

Scan_20180420

PIONEER RESERVE LAWSUIT:

There was a recent lawsuit between a private wetlands mitigation bank – Pioneer Reserve – which is located in Hatcher Pass – and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  This case was fascinating and revealed a lot about how mitigation banking in Alaska works.

The Plaintiffs (the owners of the private Pioneer Mitigation bank) complained that the Army Corps which authorized their “mitigation bank” promised to require the Alaska Railroad to purchase some credits from them (when the ARRC was building the Pt Mac Rail Spur)..but in the end, the ARRC (the Alaska Railroad Corp.) purchased most of its credits from Su-Knik.  Pioneer claimed it missed out on a potential $12 million sale.

The federal court disagreed and Pioneer lost its lawsuit.  (There were a series of cases and appeals in US District Court for Alaska and the Federal Court of Claims.)

It was revealed in the case that the ARRC bought its wetland mitigation credits from Su-Knik for $1,430,000.000.  143 credits at 10K per credit.  The ARRC also bought another 16.92 credits from the Great Land Trust for $492,101.28 (at $29,084 per credit.)

Thus, the ARRC spent almost $2 million buying “wetlands mitigation credits” ! This money was State grant money for the rail spur.   What a crazy MONEY SHUFFLE.  This State grant money was originally given to the MSB – which gave it to the ARRC to build the rail spur construction project – and then ARRC gave some of it back to the MSB via buying credits from Su-Knik (after Mr. Ryan’s company took their cut of course.)

Math: If the Su-Knik bank received $1,430,000 from ARRC, then Mr. Ryan’s company’s share (60%) was approx. $852,000 and the MSB’s share (40%) was approx. $568,000.  (The Su-Knik bank is required by the UMBI to set aside $700 for each credit sold for “management” of the lands in the bank so – about 100K from this sale – so I divided up only 1.42 million.)

Note: The ARRC must be tired of being a buyer instead of a seller of these mitigation credits.  I noticed that they have recently issued a Mitigation Bank Prospectus trying to establish their own bank:

Scan_20180420 (23)

These pleadings set forth the facts of the case in detail:

Pioneer Reserve Lawsuit Plaintiff’s memorandum of fact and law

Pioneer Reserve lawsuit Memo of facts

The Decision:

Pionner Reserve Opinion and Order Sept 26 2016

This decision was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fed Circuit on 6/12/17

MORE ABOUT HOW THE SU-KNIK BANK WORKS:

Here is an example of a credit sale.  The City of Wasilla was required to purchase 3.4 credits from the Su-Knik bank in 2011 because the City filled in a little bit of wetlands at the Wasilla airport as part of a runway improvement project.   The City paid $34,000 for these credits – using Fed grant money I believe.  (So the MSB’s share may have been about 13K.) Notice how Mr. Ryan handles all the details of all sales and payments are directed to his company.  Here are the documents which outline the process:

 

MORE ABOUT THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE SU-KNIK MITIGATION BANK: 

 

Ordinances 05-041 and 05-042 were passed by the MSB Assembly on April 19, 2005.

Ordinance 05-041 “accepted the final report of Critical Habitats, Inc. on Wetland Mitigation Banking of Borough-Owned land” and “establishing a new section in the Code creating a wetland mitigation bank.”

Did the MSB pay for this final report? With what funds? A Grant?

05-041or_000

 

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

http://www.criticalhabitats.com/our-team.html

Kevin Noon is a longtime employee of Critical Habitats.  I need to find out more – but I think what happened is – the MSB hired Critical Habitats to do some research for us re: wetlands and we paid them with grant money and then Kevin Noon somehow partnered up with Jerome Ryan and James Hodge to set up the Su-Knik Bank. I would like to know – did the MSB pay for all the necessary wetlands research and mapping out of grant money OR did Ryan, Hodge, and Noon pay anything out of their own pockets? Because if they did not front any costs, why are they getting a 60/40 split of the revenue? This deal really doesn’t seem equitable at all. The Su-Knik Bank is not a private mitigation bank.  These environmental “investors” did not contribute privately-owned lands.  The Su-Kink Mitigation Bank consists entirely of public lands.

Scan_20180422

Was this EPA grant money going towards the development of the Su-Knik Mitigation Bank?  This Ordinance passed on Nov 21, 2006.

 

WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THE PRIVATE FOR-PROFIT ENVIRONMENTAL COMPANY THAT THE MSB HAS PARTNERED WITH IN OUR MITIGATION BANK? WHY WAS THE SU-KNIK BANK LISTED AS COLLATERAL IN A 2016 UCC FILING? 

I cannot find any company by the name of “Sustainable Environments LLC” in the Alaska Corporations Database.  “Sustainable Environments LLC” is the name of the company on the cover of the UMBI.

There is a company called “Su-Knik Environments LLC” which is registered (although currently in non compliance) in Alaska.

Scan_20180420 (2)

 

Su-Knik Environments LLC has changed its official Agent a few times. For a while, it was Tracy McDaniel, a MSB employee.  Then it was Jerome Ryan. Now it is a paid corporate agent – C.T. Corporation System in Juneau.

Scan_20180420 (3)

Su-Knik Environments LLC is the name of the company that is listed as the official Seller of the Su-Knik Mitigation credits on the Sale Contracts.  However, this signature page  is very confusing.  SE Alaskan LLC, yet another company, is the Managing Member of Su-Knik Environments.

Scan_20180420 (8)

Here is what I found out about SE Alaskan LLC:

It was incorporated in 2006 for the purpose of creating a Wetlands Mitigation Bank. Jerome Ryan was listed as the 33.3% owner. In a 2008 filing, Su-Knik Environments LLC was listed as a 1% owner/member.  It was administratively dissolved in 2016.

Then there is another company that Jerome Ryan and the MSB are connected to – “Friends of SE Alaskan, LLC.” This company was also founded in 2006 and was administratively dissolved in 2016. Tracy McDaniel with the MSB Lands Office was its registered agent for a time. She is listed as the agent in the most recent (2014) Biennial Report, but now Jerome Ryan seems to be the agent.  In the 2014 report, it is noted that this company is owned primarily by the HB Family Limited Partnership (41.6%) and the Fisher Family Trust (41.6%).

How this “Friends” company is tied into the Su-Knik Mitigation Bank and/or affiliated with the MSB (why were we acting as this company’s agent?) is a complete mystery.

 

 

Investing in Wetlands Mitigation Banking must be lucrative or potentially lucrative. Or maybe investing in “Eco-Assets” is simply “Virtue Signaling”.

The Fisher Family trust is listed as having an address of 460 Walsh Road in Atherton, CA.  A house with that address sold for $10 million recently.

https://www.redfin.com/CA/Atherton/460-Walsh-Rd-94027/home/2100278

MYSTERIOUS UCC FILING

THE SU-KNIK MITIGATION BANK WAS LISTED AS COLLATERAL in a 2016 UCC FILING: 

James Hodge filed a UCC financing statement with the Alaska’s Recorder’s Office on Sept 12, 2016, which declares that he is a creditor and the debtors are The Su-Knik Mitigation Bank (which is jointly owned by the MSB, so apparently, the MSB is also in debt to Mr. Hodge), Su-Knik Environments LLC, and SE Anchorage LLC.

This is very confusing because Mr. Hodge was partners with Mr. Ryan and Mr. Noon when the Su-Knik Mitigation Bank was formed.

What is this filing all about? Did Mr. Hodge sell out his share of the business? Why did he list the Su-Knik Mitigation Bank as a debtor? Did the MSB approve this?

 

 

IMPORTANT NOTE:  This is from p. 3 of the UCC filing (above.)  It explains that there is a written financial agreement between the MSB and Mr. Ryan and his partners.  We need the MSB to disclose this agreement so we can see all the details, etc.

Scan_20180422 (4)

 

Note: SE Anchorage LLC is yet ANOTHER company that seems tied to the Su-Knik Mitigation Bank. Mr. Hodge lists this company’s address as 1028 Wilmington Way, Redwood City, CA.

Here is SE Anchorage LLC’s corporate filing:

By the way, who are G2F2, JCPoetsch Advisors, Inc, and MS Stapp Investments Inc?

Scan_20180420 (22)

 

I sent this email to the MSB Manager on April 16th but did not receive any response:

Hello,

I have been researching the issue of Wetlands Mitigation Banking in Alaska for a few months now…even before I saw the item on this week’s Assembly meeting agenda. 

I noticed that there is a current UCC Financing Statement which is on file with the Alaska Recorder’s Office which involves the Su-Knik Mitigation Bank, Su-Knik Environmental LLC, and SE Alaska LLC. It was filed in the fall of 2016.  
See attached (or you can search for this document at the Alaska’s Recorder’s website – just search using the name “Su-Knik.”)
Can you please explain what this financing statement is all about? The Su-Knik Mitigation Bank lands (i.e., the MSB lands which were set aside for the wetlands bank) are being used as collateral.
Why is the Su-Knik Mitigation bank a debtor? Is James Hodge the creditor? (Isn’t he also a partner with Su-Knik Environmental LLC?) Why is he a creditor? How much is he owed? Did the MSB authorize this loan? (Or was this part of some sort of sale of his interest?) 
Also, how much has the MSB earned from the Su-Knik mitigation bank since its inception? What did we do with the proceeds? How many credits do we have left?  What is the current value of the credits? 
Thanks in advance for any assistance. 

 

Stonewalling and Secrecy (OR, Why won’t the MSB release more information to the public?)

bricklayer

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough, compared to the State of Alaska and other boroughs and cities, puts very little information on its website.

The MSB does not have an online checkbook or share executive travel records like the State of Alaska.

The MSB doesn’t post any reports from its Internal Auditor like the Municipality of Anchorage.

The MSB’s Purchasing Officer used to be required to submit a monthly Informational Memorandum to the Assembly of all contracts awarded or amended each month which are $100K or less (contracts for more than that require Assembly approval)…However, I have not seen any of these IMs in the Assembly meeting packets lately.  Here is an example of one from 2011:

 

The MSB meeting packets are deleted from the website within 2 years (Assembly) or just a few months (boards).

Top Secret

Note: Even when the meeting packets are online, sometimes they are posted at the very last minute and/or are missing information, especially the Port Commission board meetings.  If you attend a meeting in person, there are often additional documents which never make it to the website.  These additional documents are not always available to the public.  Sometimes the additional documents are at the back of the room; sometimes they are not.  At every Assembly meeting, the Clerk inevitably states to the members:  Such and such information was provided in your folders.  These “folder” documents are never in the official meeting packets and they are never available to the public.

All RFPS and Bids are deleted almost as soon as they are awarded. (In contrast, the City of Palmer keeps winning bids listed for over 10 years.)

The MSB’s Press Release section is missing select old press releases.

A source tells me that all of this historical information is online and available for MSB employees to access, but the MSB chooses NOT to allow the public to have continuing access.

Assembly member Jim Sykes has been advocating for more transparency with little success so far.  He did manage to get the MSB to post its (basic, general) budgets online, something that was not done until he advocated for it!!

Thus, the only way to obtain certain information from the MSB is to do “Public Records Requests.”

However, the MSB does not always comply with records requests.  The MSB will give out some records but for other records, they will claim it will take them too much time (more than the 5 hour limit per citizen per month) and send a bill to the requester asking for a payment up front.

Note: A source told me recently that the MSB was “keeping me busy” with records such as the credit card records and employee reimbursement records, but they will never release the more important financial records to me. (I have no way to confirm this.) Further note: I have to pay $10 for most digital records – the cost of the thumb drives.

Here are some examples of the MSB charging high costs for records:

I asked for all Internal Audit reports.  The MSB said not until you pay $540.70:

 

Note: I doubt it would take the Internal Auditor more than one hour to copy all of his “Internal Audit” reports from his computer.

I asked for all TRAVEL RECORDS for the past three years.  The Travel Authorizations.  The MSB said – not until you pay us $971:

Scan_20180406 (5)

 

 

 

 

I asked to review financial and contractual records.  I stated that I would come down to the MSB building to look at these records. No need for the MSB staff to pull the records for me or make copies.  The code allows the public to inspect records at no cost.  The MSB told me I still needed to pay $233.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MSB Credit Card statements Nov 2017 thru Feb 2018 with highlights

OklahomaR61_GBQ

The MSB is still spending a lot of money on food and travel.  Not as much as before I started doing these public records requests, but still too much.

MSB Credit Cards Nov 2017 – Feb 2018 Scan_20180330_111000 (1)

Here are some highlights from the above statements:

The MSB Manager John Moosey had a nice lunch at the Inn Cafe Steakhouse (the MSB’s favorite restaurant, which is located right next to the MSB building) on December 5th at a cost of $35.77.  The lunch was expensed by Moosey as a “meeting with RON ARVIN.” Mr. Arvin is a former Assembly member and current businessman.  Is this kosher? I don’t think so. Our government officials and staff need to be fair, neutral, and transparent in all of their dealings on behalf of the public.  If Mr. Moosey has a MSB project that he wants to move forward, he needs to issue an RFP (after he gets the okay from the Assembly after a public hearing).  If Mr. Arvin has something he wants to discuss re: MSB business, he should use the public comment time at the Assembly meeting.  3 minutes allowed.  And if they are just old friends having lunch, they need to pay for it themselves!

Scan_20180330 (8)

Why is the “Internal Auditor” (James Wilson) taking so many trips to Oklahoma on the taxpayers’ dime? Wilson used to live and work in Oklahoma. From previous public records requests, it seems that he has been travelling there often to meet with Dale Rich, the owner of NPI.  So, this is all probably related to the proposed “Timber Deal.” How many meetings does the MSB’s “Internal Auditor” really need to have in Oklahoma with Mr. Rich anyways? They can’t send emails or talk on the phone? And why is a MSB official doing behind-the-scenes negotiating with a private businessman anyhow? Where is the transparency and the public process?

 

Also on the above statements is a $999 charge for PPI/FEPREP.com. This was purchased by Jessica Smith, the MSB’s Planning Services Manager.  FEPREP.com is an online test prep service. It helps people prepare for for various engineering licensing exams.  From FEPREP’s website: “Taking the NCEES FE Exam is the first step toward becoming a licensed engineer – i.e. a Professional Engineer (P.E.). After you pass the FE Exam, you are considered an “Engineer-in-Training.”

Why is the MSB paying for a test prep class for an employee?  Are they also going to pay for her FE and PE exams?  If we wanted a licensed engineer in that position, why didn’t we hire a licensed engineer in the first place?

The I.T. Director Eric Wyatt had a “business meeting” to discuss the Govern Update on Dec 13th at the Palmer City Alehouse and this cost the taxpayers $134.84.  How many people did he treat to lunch?  How many were fellow MSB staffers? Doesn’t Mr. Wyatt have an office at the Dorothy Swanda Jones MSB building?  Aren’t there conferences rooms in that building too? Didn’t the public just spend millions expanding and renovating this beautiful office building?

Scan_20180330 (6)

The Community Development Director Eric Phillips paid $820.00 to JT & A for the registration fee to attend an upcoming conference on “Ecosystem Banking.” This is all about wetlands mitigation banking. Google tells me this conference is going to be held in Louisville, Kentucky in May. So, the MSB will also be paying travel expenses.  I too have been interested in the topic of Wetland Mitigation Banking and there are a LOT of resources available on the web.  For free.

Scan_20180330 (7)

The MSB Manager and the Attorney traveled to Akron, Ohio, in February for “Insurance Settlement meetings.” Apparently, these meetings involve the insurance company Lloyd’s of London, which insured the FERRY.  Why the heck the MSB is on the hook for the multi-million dollar repairs to the ferry is baffling.  We paid for maritime insurance.  Why isn’t the insurance covering the damages?  Also, we are paying for a law firm in Ohio to represent us, so why did the Manager and MSB Attorney need to travel all the way to Ohio?  Was there some sort of (probably very expensive) mediation or arbitration going on that we aren’t being told about? This whole thing is very fishy and stinks for the taxpayers.

Scan_20180330 (9)

We paid $3,806.94 to Expedia for some type of “Staff Training” that is going to take place April 20 – 26, 2018.