The Agricultural Processing Center…hasn’t been built

Unlike the Port or Rail Spur, an Agricultural Processing Center actually seems like a workable idea.  It is not overly expensive and it capitalizes on the Mat-Su Valley’s well established agricultural industry.

The MSB started developing this project many years ago. A study was done; Architectural Plans were drawn up. However, this project never came to fruition.  Why not?

Here is the study from 2008:

MSB Agricultural Center Study

Highlights:

MSB Ag P

MSB Ag P 2MSB Ag P 3MSB Ag P 4MSB Ag p 5

 

 

Wolf Architecture designed the building:

http://www.wolfarchitecture.com/public-new/2015/7/28/msb-agricultural-processing-center

Competing Interests

msb seal

Competing interests…

The MSB gov’t is not a large entity.  It is like a club. There are only 323 full time employees. They get great salaries and benefits. Regular 40 hour weeks (or is it 35?) plus vacation time. PERS retirement. Cadillac health plans. None of the jobs seem too stressful (most are office jobs and no one is on their feet all day working like a nurse or teacher or public defender.) They work in a nice facilities (most work in the beautifully remodeled Dorothy Swanda Jones building.) They have a nice fleet of vehicles to use if needed. Many get to travel to conferences around the USA. The Directors get credit cards and sometimes charge up lunch meetings. The leaders seem to have plenty of time to go to Chamber lunches and Ocean Recycling fundraising lunches and Salmon symposiums etc. (Most nurses, teachers, and public defenders I know barely have time to eat lunch so it usually consists of gobbling up a sandwich at their desks in 15 minutes.) They have employee holiday parties and BBQs etc. No one has to make a daily commute to Anchorage. The Manager doesn’t seem to be a difficult boss. He seems sort of like a softy who probably says yes to all requests (Can we charge our Dept lunch meeting on the credit card? Can I travel to Orlando Florida in January for this conference? Okay fine.) All in all – these are pretty nice jobs for the Mat-Su Valley.

So – I’m thinking – the MSB staffers’ primary goals are to KEEP THEIR GREAT JOBS and KEEP THEIR JOBS GREAT.  The MSB staff has no incentive to publicize any screw ups or unnecessary expenses. Yes, sure, they claim they strive to “improve the Mat-Su Valley” and they try to do a good job etc. – but really, the MSB staff knows that the Assembly members are not paying very close attention to what they are up to anyhow. Assembly members come and go and most are not very pro-active or curious about how things really work. The Assembly relies on the Manager – who is also just trying to keep his job.

There is an inherent conflict of interest between the public which wants transparency and super hard working competent gov’t employees and the biggest bang for our tax bucks and the government employees who just want to keep working at their (sort of cushy compared to most) jobs and collecting paychecks and benefits until they retire. 

The MSB manager and staffers never call attention to any of the internal costs or blunders – such as high salaries (especially for the non-union managers), the frequent travel to all manner of conferences, local restaurant “meeting” meal expenses, the fleet of vehicles, the super duper health insurance, and “Legal Settlements.”

For example – the cost of the MSB health insurance. The MSB staffers (both mgmt and union) have zero incentive to look at any cost cutting measures.  It is in their interest to have Cadillac health plans.

For another example – the “Legal Settlements.” None of these are disclosed to the public.

 

 

 

The Gamble Settlement

SUMMARY OF THIS Legal Settlement Agreement for those that don’t have time to read it:

MSB – Mr. Gamble, here is 75K. You can’t sue us or anyone (or help anyone sue) for anything that has any plausible connection to the MSB, okay? Here is an extra 5K if you don’t tell anyone about this agreement. 

The MSB today released (pursuant to a records request) a copy of their Legal Settlement Agreement with William F. Gamble, the former Director of EMS.

The MSB paid Mr. Gamble $80,000, less than three months after he left his employment with the MSB.

Original post: https://matsumuckraker.com/2019/01/17/msb-paid-william-f-gamble-former-director-of-ems-a-80000-legal-settlement-in-april-2017/

See the settlement document below:

William Gamble – 2017-03-21- Settlement Agreement – signed – Kapished

ANALYZING THIS LEGAL DOCUMENT:

This is a very ODD settlement agreement.

Ostensibly, it is a payment and release for Mr. Gamble’s possible PERS retirement benefits claims.

However, a close reading of the legal document shows that Mr. Gamble has released the MSB and any and all individuals and entities (who could possibly be named in any such suit) from any and all possible claims for basically ANYTHING related to his employment.  He also has agreed not to assist anyone else in bringing any sort of legal action against the MSB.

And he got an extra $5,000 for keeping this all confidential.

Gamble 1Gamble 2Gamble 3Gamble 4

FOOTNOTE:

Why didn’t Mr. Gamble join with other Emergency Responders in their case against the MSB for its failure to pay them PERS benefits?

That case was filed in 2014 originally in Palmer Superior Court but was removed up to Federal Court in Anchorage. The parties all settled in the fall of 2015 with the MSB paying the Plaintiffs.

Richey v MSB lawsuit

Mysterious MSB Assembly Special Meeting re: the Finance Dept (Aug 2016)

A MSB Assembly Special Meeting meeting took place on August  30, 2016 (the Tuesday just before the Labor Day weekend.)

This meeting was mysterious.  The entire meeting was conducted in Executive Session.

The minutes note that the closed door session was necessary to discuss, “The ONGOING review of the Operation and Administration of the Finance Department and Financial Management and WHETHER THERE ARE ANY LIABILITIES OR REMEDIES AT ISSUE.”

What was this all about? Did the MSB take any action as a result of this meeting? 

Special MeetingSpecial Meeting 2Special Meeting 3

Note that (former Finance Director) Ms. Tammy Clayton asked to be included in the Executive Session. (See ADN and Frontiersman articles below.) 

Earlier that month, the MSB announced Ms. Clayton’s departure:

https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/mat-su/2016/08/09/longtime-finance-director-out-at-mat-su-borough/

https://www.frontiersman.com/news/heindel-named-mat-su-borough-interim-finance-director/article_1eddf896-5e8d-11e6-acba-6b926691248c.html

The MSB’s secret contract with Sean Parnell

Shhhh

The MSB, without Assembly approval and without public disclosure, hired former Governor Sean Parnell to work as a consultant on “Port, Rail and Economic Development” from the summer of 2016 to the summer of 2018.  Mr. Parnell was paid over $100,000.

2016 Borough Contract

2017.2018 Purchase Order No_

Contract Amendment no Borough Sign 12.21.16

The MSB also didn’t inform the Port Commission that Mr. Parnell was working to market and develop the Port and Rail.

Last week, I called a Port Commissioner who has been attending the Port meetings since before 2016. I asked – Were you aware of this contract? This commissioner told me – NO. If you find out more about it, please let me know. According to this Commissioner, who has never missed a meeting,  Mr. Parnell never attended a single Port Commission meeting and the MSB Manager and staff never informed the Port Commission of Mr. Parnell’s role. Also – the Port Commission never goes into Executive Session – so it wasn’t revealed in an executive session.

What exactly did Mr. Parnell do for the MSB? So far, the MSB is not saying. The Manager, Mayor and Public Relations Director have not responded to my email.

My public records’ request also sought “all work product” but so far, the MSB hasn’t sent me any.

What is interesting about this contract is that no written work is required. And conveniently, due to the Cyber Attack, the MSB’s higher level staff have “lost” all their old emails. (Emails for lower level staff were restored.)

All told, Mr. Parnell’s consulting firm “NavNorth” made $103,500.

QUESTIONS:

  1. What work did former Governor Parnell do for the MSB?
  2. What was accomplished with this contract?
  3. Who was aware of the contract?
  4. Why was this contract so secretive?
  5. Why wasn’t this contract approved by the Assembly? (All contracts over 100K require Assembly approval.)
  6. Why wasn’t the Port Commission told about it?
  7. If Gov Parnell was supposed to market the Port, why didn’t he meet with the Port Commission to discuss his role and get input from them?

See previous post – https://matsumuckraker.com/2019/01/17/msb-paid-former-governor-sean-parnells-firm-navnorth-103500-for-consulting-work/

2/11/19 Update – The MSB Public Records Clerk sent me this note via email:

I have forwarded you everything that was given to me. My understanding is that the work product was in the form of meetings and phone calls. There is no other documentation to forward to you.

Borough Budget Watch & Where is the Promised ONLINE Checkbook?

Local Watch Dog Patty Rosnel started the Facebook group “Borough Budget Watch” several years ago to keep tabs on the MSB.

Patty Rosnel 7

Patty attended many MSB Assembly meetings and advocated for more transparency and for more purposeful and thoughtful spending.

Alas, she has retired and moved out of State, but I just came across some relevant documents in a MSB meeting packet from December 1, 2015.

Ms. Rosnel gave a presentation on the need for more transparency…including an ONLINE CHECKBOOK plus other suggestions for what needs to be on the MSB’s website.

Not much of this has been accomplished. In fact, today on the Borough Budget Watch group, Assembly member Jim Sykes mentioned that the ONLINE CHECK is still in the works…but was delayed because of the cyber attack. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Patty Rosnel 1Patty Rosnel 2Patty Rosnel 3Patty Rosnel 4Patty Rosnel 5Patty Rosnel 6