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!

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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?

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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.

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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.

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

 

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Talkeetna Field Trip

denali brew pub

The MSB Assembly had a “Special Meeting” up at the Talkeetna Library on Friday, January 12th, at 11 a.m.

The only item on the agenda was a “Financial Overview and Discussion of the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget.”

Note: This meeting was NOT necessary as the budget discussions do not really get underway until later in the Spring.  The MSB Departments didn’t give their formal budget presentations until March 27, 2018, at the special annual budget meeting in Assembly chambers.

This Talkeetna meeting was ODD in several respects.  There are no minutes for this meeting available and the meeting was not properly recorded.  (I saw a notation somewhere that the recording was garbled. Hmmmm.)

Also, someone who attended the meeting told me that there may have been a vote on something but he did not catch it.  This person told me – the MSB is sneaky.  If they want to pull a fast one, the way they do it is to hold a special meeting outside of the main Dorothy Jones Borough building in Palmer and NOT record it properly.  Also, if it is a daytime meeting in an outlying location in the middle of winter, not many members of the public are likely to attend.

My source tells me this meeting was packed with MSB staff and barely any members of the public.  Why did so many staffers need to travel up to Talkeetna for such a meeting?

In any case, the public paid the bill for the MSB Assembly members and staffers to have a very nice lunch at the Denali Brew Pub after the meeting. The cost was $684.28. Plus, we paid for all the gas for everyone affiliated with the MSB to drive up there. (Only certain employees – Directors – can use the MSB credit cards.  So, for example, the MSB clerk’s gas charge of almost $60 for this Talkeetna field trip is listed, but other employees need to put in for reimbursements, so their gas charges won’t show up on these credit card statements. Also, only the MSB Mayor has his own credit card; other Assembly members also just get reimbursements later.)

 

 

Shhh….Beluga Whales don’t like noise

Beluga Whale

The MSB has issued an RFP for the additional repairs to the Port MacKenzie dock.

18-100B: PORT MACKENZIE CELL DOCK REPAIRS PHASE II

Issue Date:
February 23, 2018 10:15 am
Pre-Bid:
March 07, 2018 11:30 am in the Port Mackenzie Building
Sealed Bid Due:
April 03, 2018 02:30 pm
Sealed Bids Opened:
April 03, 2018 02:30 pm in the Purchasing DivisonBid Description: The Matanuska-Susitna Borough (MSB) is requesting bids from interested contractors to repair the damaged cells of the dock at Port Mackenzie. The project involves, but is not limited to, excavation and reconditioning, import of borrow material, removing damaged sheet piles and other piles, installing new sheet piles and other piles, removing and replacing cap beam and railing, and installing cover plates.

Included in the attachments is the following letter from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration regarding precautions that must be taken during this project. 

So, construction companies bidding on this project need to be aware of the restrictions and need to make sure they hire a PSO.
A PSO is a “Protected Species Observer” – i.e. a person who is able to “accurately identify and distinguish species of Alaska marine mammals.”
The PSO must be present before and during all in-water construction activities “and will have no other duty than to watch for and report on events related to marine mammals.”
The PSO will scan the area (the zone) for the presence of marine mammals for 30 minutes prior to the start of pile-driving…and will continuously scan the 1.5 mile radius exclusion zone to ensure that marine mammals do not enter it.  If any marine mammals are present, pile-driving and construction removal activities must stop.
Also, there is complicated math re: the level of sound allowed in the zone due to the whales.

Community Councils

norman rockwell new england town meeting

(Norman Rockwell’s famous 1940 “New England town meeting” painting.)

Community Councils are an important part of local government.

Here is a list of the MSB community councils and their websites and/or Facebook pages.

Note: I will try to keep this list and the links updated.

 

Big Lake Community Council

http://www.biglakecommunitycouncil.com/

 

Buffalo Mine/Soapstone Community Council

https://www.facebook.com/BMSSCC/

 

Butte Community Council

http://buttecc.org/ (ARCHIVES)

https://www.facebook.com/TheButteCommunity.net/

https://www.facebook.com/ButteAreaResidents/

 

Chase Community Council

https://sites.google.com/site/chasecommunitynews/

http://chasecommunity.blogspot.com/  (ARCHIVES)

 

Chickaloon Community Council

http://www.chickalooncc.org/

 

Fishhook Community Council

https://www.facebook.com/Fishhook-Community-Council-165675960146825/

 

Gateway Community Council

https://www.facebook.com/Gateway-Community-Council-508696552493892/

 

Glacier View Community Council

https://www.facebook.com/myGVCC/

 

Greater Farm Loop Community Council

https://www.facebook.com/farmloopcc/

 

Knik-Fairview Community Council

https://kfccak.org/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/109095339747932/

 

Lazy Mountain Community Council

 

Louise, Susitna, Tyone Community Association

http://www.lakelouisecommunity.info/

 

Meadow Lakes Community Council

http://www.mlccak.org/

https://www.facebook.com/mlccak/

 

North Lakes Community Council

http://www.nlakescc.org/

https://www.facebook.com/NLakesCommunityCouncil/

 

Petersville Community Council

http://www.petersvillecommunitynpc.org/

https://www.facebook.com/petersvillecommunitynpc.org/

 

Point MacKenzie Community Council

http://pointmackenziecc.com/

 

Skwentna Community Council

 

South Knik River Community Council

https://skrcc99645.wordpress.com/ (ARCHIVES)

 

South Lakes Community Council

 

Susitna Community Council

https://susitnacc.org/

 

Sutton Community Council

https://www.facebook.com/suttoncommunitycouncil/

http://www.suttoncommunitycouncil.com/

 

Talkeetna Community Council

http://www.talkeetnacouncil.org/

 

Tanaina Community Council

 

Trapper Creek Community Council

http://trappercreekcouncil.org/

http://www.trappercreek.org/index.htm

 

Willow Area Community Organization

http://www.waco-ak.org/

https://www.facebook.com/willowareacommunity/

 

NOTE: Residents who live within the cities of Palmer, Wasilla, and Houston do not have community councils.  Their city councils are their reps.

https://www.facebook.com/CITY-OF-PALMER-ALASKA-119642608154349/

Smart Communities (Is this a smart use of money?)

The MSB is leading up a new program called the “Alaska Smart Communities Forum.”

The group meets quarterly.  Here are agendas from some recent meetings.

The MSB hosted a meeting on January 30, 2018, at the Atwood Conference Center  in Anchorage and one in October, 2017, in Palmer.  (Breakfast and Lunch provided by the MSB.)

 

Smart Communities Agenda

Smart Communities Agenda 2

Why are we spending money on a “Smart Communities” project? I do not think this benefits the community very much.

I think stuff like this is fun and interesting for IT employees but it really doesn’t make much difference to the community which is footing the bill.

Unnecessary projects like the “Smart Communities forum” is why our IT budget has ballooned in recent years. Was this funded with a grant? Or was it funded with local property taxpayers’ money?

We need a back to basics website and a back to basics budget.

https://akscf.matsugov.us/akscf/Pages/akscf.aspx

http://www.esri.com/smart-communities

UFVs and UFOs

ufo

There is a Planning Commission Meeting on April 2, 2018 and UFVs and UFOs are on the agenda.

Resolution 18-09 is being introduced.  The MSB planning staff is advising the Planning Commission to adopt this resolution recommending that the MSB Assembly approve Ordinance 18-021.

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What is Ordinance 18-021???

An amendment/update to MSB Code exempting Unmanned Flying Vehicles (UFVs, i.e. drones) from the Conditional Use Permit requirements for Race Tracks.

So, if this Ordinance passes, there will be no notice to the public and no process for the approval of any drone racing tracks/areas.

Here is the Memo about this resolution:

All of the details including the specific changes to the MSB Code are outlined in the Planning Commission Meeting packet:

Drone Races pc-packet-04-02-18

So, if UFVs are drones, what are UFOs?

Those are “Unidentified Friend’s Ordinances”…That is, Ordinances drafted for friends of the MSB.

[The MSB always hides the ball.  They never explain what is really going on behind the scenes when they propose an Ordinance or a Resolution, etc.  They never tell the public “the rest of the story.”]

In this case, the friend is former MSB Assembly member Stephen Colligan.

He loves drones and drone racing.

http://www.frontiersman.com/opinions/spectrum-keep-model-aircraft-hobbyists-flying/article_fdc6245e-ccdf-11e7-8ce6-db4201c428e7.html

https://www.adn.com/sports/2017/09/20/game-of-drones-its-a-real-life-video-game-for-alaska-drone-racers/

He founded the non profit, Alaska Drone Racing League, in 2016.

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WARNING TO BUTTE RESIDENTS:  The drone races are taking place out in the Butte but if this Ordinance passes, you will have no say about these drone races.

The Alaska Drone Racing League has a website – AKDRL.ORG.  They also have a Facebook page.

THEY ALSO SEEM TO HAVE A SPECIAL DRONE RACING PARK LOCATED RIGHT AT THE JIM CREEK RECREATIONAL AREA.  (Did the MSB inform the public about this before they agreed to allow this drone league to race at Jim Creek? Why wasn’t this on the agenda of an Assembly meeting or the Butte Community Council meeting?)

Look at the Drone League’s Facebook post from February 24th of this year. “The MatSu Borough has been busy working in the area of our flying field.  There are now 18 camping spots on site. A large berm is in place as well.  There will be a specific parking area for us on our field.”

So,  I guess the MSB has been making sure Jim Creek has amenities for the drone league folks.  Hmmmm….

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And look at the Alaska Drone League’s website.  They have scheduled the AKDRL Summer 2018 season and most of the races are taking place at the “Jim Creek RC Park” which seems to be located right at the (publicly owned) Jim Creek Rec Area.

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The “Jim Creek RC Park.”  Why hasn’t this park been publicized before? Is this part of the Jim Creek Master Plan?

If so, I can’t find it:

2013-03-05-adopted-jim-creek-motorized-master-plan-high-resolution

Why didn’t the MSB staff reveal to the Planning Commission and the public that it has basically ALREADY granted permission to the AKDRL to have drone races at Jim Creek? And why didn’t the MSB reveal that they have basically already accommodated this drone league with a special field for their use and parking spots at Jim Creek?

I wonder if the fact that Steve Colligan was an Assembly member until this past fall has anything to do with this set up? (The MSB Planning Division is accommodating Assembly member Dr. Doty’s request for an Aviation overlay district and SPUD for her privately owned Wolf Lake airport. See blog post “This SPUD’s for you.”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The MSB’s “Internal Auditor”…What exactly is this position and where are the “Internal Audit” reports?

The Municipality of Anchorage has an Internal Auditor.  The MOA’s website explains:

The primary focus of Internal Audit is to assist the Mayor and the Municipal Assembly in ensuring that proper accountability is maintained over public funds and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Municipal government within the constraints of the Anchorage Municipal Code. 

https://www.muni.org/Departments/internal_audit/Pages/default.aspx

The MOA’s Internal Auditor conducts investigations and prepares detailed reports for the Anchorage Mayor and Municipal Assembly and the PUBLIC on everything and anything financial.  These reports are published on the MOA’s website – going back almost 25 years!

Check out the MOA’s website.

https://www.muni.org/Departments/internal_audit/Pages/AdtRpts.aspx

For example, in 2017, the Internal Auditor prepared and published a total of 14 reports – on everything from “Cash Control Procedures; Solid Waste Services” and “Municipal Leases Follow-Up; Real Estate Department” to “Annual Municipal Procurement Card Review; Purchasing Department” (i.e. credit card use.)

These reports are amazing!  Read through some of them.  They contain so much detail as well as “findings and recommendations.”

 

The MOA’s internal auditor provides valuable information and gets results.  Here is an example:

http://www.alaskastar.com/2017-02-13/mac-management-promises-changes-wake-audit#.Wq8PTOjwaUk

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough has a Internal Auditor too. Sort of.  

However, our Internal Auditor doesn’t seem to prepare any reports.  Or, if our Internal Auditor does prepare reports, the public is not made aware of them.  There is NOTHING about the Internal Auditor and there are no Internal Audit reports posted on the MSB’s website.

The MSB’s internal auditor is James Wilson.  How Mr. Wilson came to be hired by the MSB is convoluted.

Back in the fall of 2010, the MSB was conducting a search for a new Borough Manager to replace longtime manager John Duffy who retired.  The Assistant Manager, Elizabeth Gray, was named Acting Manager during the search.

James Wilson was one of the applicants for the Manager’s job. He made it to the final 11 and then the final 7, but he did NOT make it to the final 3.

http://www.frontiersman.com/news/mat-su-assembly-winnows-candidates-from-to/article_b1d12d0d-f7cf-5ff6-b3cd-e06162e91c61.html

http://www.frontiersman.com/news/assembly-winnows-borough-manager-candidates-to/article_ac5aee4a-afa4-5bf3-b6f6-f19a7e3fba41.htmlScan_20180320

 

On November 30, 2010, following a closed door session, the MSB Assembly announced that it was re-starting the manager search and hiring an executive search firm.

113010 spc mtg re manager vacancy mtg mins

The MSB Assembly never explained to the public why they were doing this.  Hmmm…

http://www.frontiersman.com/news/search-on-again-for-borough-manager/article_feb0687f-2a2f-57bf-9c79-e875f1ce1e0c.html

From the above Frontiersman article:

For a moment there it looked like the long, complicated process of selecting a new manager to head up Mat-Su Borough government was nearing an end.

Two weeks ago, the borough assembly had whittled the list of candidates to three, ranked them, and seemed ready to announce a decision. But on Tuesday the borough assembly decided to bring in an executive consulting firm to drum up some new applicants. And, though the borough announced that decision officially, at least for now, the assembly can’t explain it.

“The statement that was made is the statement that the assembly has allowed to go to the public,” said Deputy Mayor Ron Arvin. “I’d like to say more. I know there are a lot of people who would like to have more information, but it’s a complicated process.”…

The search for a manager has been ongoing since April when John Duffy resigned after 10 years at the helm. The initial applicant pool contained around 60 names. As of two weeks ago that list had been narrowed to three — Greg Young, city administrator of Ferndale, Wash.; Don Baird, town manager of Granby, Colo.; and Desmond Mayo, finance director for Crowley Petroleum Distribution.

Note: This is very confusing. Here are two emails dated Jan 27, 2011, from MSB Clerk Lonnie McKechnie to the Assembly members in which she attaches the new manager candidate list and also mentions that “James Wilson has pulled his application.” So, the MSB Assembly did not choose him as one of the three finalists in November 2010, but after a closed door executive session during which the MSB decided to re-open the search and hire a search firm, somehow his name re-emerged only for him to pull his application!??

Further Note:  James Wilson was let go from his position in Galveston, TX in the midst of all this. Galveston_ County_s 5jan2011 wilson

The MSB Assembly hired John Moosey (our current manager) a couple of months later on February 26, 2011.

Two days after that, James Wilson started working for the MSB as a temporary “Assistant to the Assistant Manager.”  He worked for the MSB from 2/28/2011 until 5/12/2011, i.e., during the budget cycle.

Here is Mr. Wilson’s resume circa April, 2012 (found online from when he was a finalist for a County Administrator position in Florida):

 

 

Mr. Wilson’s 2011 newly created temporary budget analyst position was not advertised.  There was no job description.  There was no documentation of tasks and no final evaluation.  The pay grade was 29.

[This information comes from a 2013 records/information request from a resident.]

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Mr. Wilson was paid $17,694.72 for his (two and a half months’ worth of) work for the MSB in 2011.

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In 2012, the MSB hired Blitch Associates Inc. (i.e. their Vice President Don Grimes) as a contractor to provide budget advice.  The cost was $10,000 plus travel expenses for Mr. Grimes. There was no solicitation for this contract.  Mr. Grimes’ reports apparently were provided to the MSB Administration but not the public.

 

Then in 2013, James Wilson was hired again by the MSB.  The MSB hired Mr. Wilson first as a contractor/budget analyst and then shortly thereafter he was hired permanently as the “Internal Auditor.”

[Note: Interestingly, in January 2012, MSB Asst Manager Elizabeth Gray moved to Altus, Oklahoma to work as the city manager there…and she hired James Wilson to be her financial advisor…James Wilson hired as consultant 2012-02-21 City Council – Full Minutes-1378  …See more below]

Here is the Feb 19, 2013 Resolution sponsored by Assembly member Jim COLVER directing the Borough Manager to Solicit Proposals from Financial Advisors to Serve as a Budget Analyst for the Assembly.

Budge Analyst 2013-RS-031 (1)

The MSB did issue a formal solicitation for this temporary budget analyst job (unlike in 2011 and 2012).  It was posted on the MSB website from 3/6/13 to 3/18/13 and advertised in the Anchorage Daily News once on 3/6/13 and in the Frontiersman once on 3/8/13.

Mr. Wilson was hired and he worked from April 8th until May 22nd 2013 – mostly from his home in Oklahoma. He was paid $55,316.25 plus travel expenses of $3,429.54 for a grand total of $58,745.79 for 38 days of work.

$58,745.79 is a LOT of money to pay someone for a 6-week gig.  This amount was only disclosed because a member of the public made a public records request.

Note: Mr. Wilson did this contract work for the MSB in April and May 2013 WHILE he was also working for the City of Altus, Oklahoma (for former MSB Asst Manager Eliz. Gray) in the very same capacity – advising that city on its finances and budget. It is unclear if Mr. Wilson was a paid employee of Altus or an independent contractor.  Nevertheless, he was working for both entities at the exact same time.  How did he not get confused re: these two budgets?

Then in June, 2013, the MSB Manager approved the new job of “Internal Auditor.”  The job was posted on July 8, 2013.

 

 

James Wilson was hired for this position.

NOTE: The job description seems tailored for Mr. Wilson who is not does hold CPA or CIA certificates.  Generally, an “Internal Auditor” is supposed to be an accounting professional.

https://www.topaccountingdegrees.org/faq/what-is-a-certified-internal-auditor/

Anyhow, the MSB “Internal Auditor” job description states that this employee will “Provide the Assembly and Borough Manager with objective information to assist them in determining whether government operations are adequately controlled and whether the required high degree of public accountability is maintained through managing a professional audit staff, conducting audits for management to assess effectiveness of controls, accuracy of financial reports, and efficiency of operations.”

Um, where is all of this stuff?  Where is the PUBLIC accountability? Where is the professional audit staff?  Where are the AUDITS? Why doesn’t the MSB post Audit Reports on our website like the Municipality of Anchorage?

This is what the Internal Auditor promised to accomplish back in 2014:

Where are these proposed audits or reports?

Note: Here are the only two “reports” (a one page memo re: the ferry sale and a three page power point presentation re: the budget) I found on the MSB website which were prepared by Mr. Wilson. (Note: Mr. Wilson has been working as our “Internal Auditor” for almost five years now.)

Ferry Sale Financial Points memo

https://www.matsugov.us/31-communication/press-releases/17373-how-to-pay-for-government-services?highlight=WyJpbnRlcm5hbCBhdWRpdG9yIl0=&template=msb_bolide

What is the MSB’s Internal Auditor doing exactly?

Well, he seems to be working on Economic Development.

The State of Alaska DOT referred to him as the MSB’s staffer who deals with “Economic Development Projects” in their recent Big Lake Airport Master Plan report.

“Economic Development” is written on many of his Travel expense reports.  He has been the MSB’s point person on the possible LNG deals and timber deals, etc.   He has been travelling all over the place, including taking numerous trips back to Oklahoma and Texas.

He drove all over the northern part of the MSB during the summer of 2017 inspecting Timber parcels. (If you ask me, spending most of June, July and and August driving all over the beautiful areas of the MSB to “inspect Timber parcels” and getting paid to do so plus receiving gas reimbursements sounds like a fabulous way to spend the summer.)

He met with Japanese Resource Developers:

https://www.matsugov.us/news/japanese-resource-developers-eye-port-mac

He attends Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) meetings:

http://www.aidea.org/Portals/0/2015/120315AIDEAMinutes.pdf

AIDEA’s Mission Statement

To promote, develop, and advance economic growth and diversification in Alaska by providing various means of financing and investment.

This doesn’t sound like Internal Auditing.