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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.