The MSB sent Port Director Charles Marc Van Dongen plus Robert Sheldon and two Assembly members – Stephen Colligan and Ron Arvin – to Tokyo Japan in September, 2015.
Director Van Dongen apparently was going to speak at an Oil & Gas Opportunity seminar.
Why did three other Mat-Su Borough folks need to tag along on this expensive trip? Robert Sheldon wasn’t on the MSB staff; was he a paid consultant?
What is problematic about tapping people other than the Port Director (or another full-time MSB staffer) to work on “economic development” projects is that these other folks could have conflicts of interests or their own agendas. The Port Director didn’t because he was working only for the Mat-Su Borough at the time. However, Ron Arvin and Stephen Colligan, despite being Assembly members, also had their own ongoing business interests at the time they took this trip. And Robert Sheldon clearly had his own business interests at that time too. (He was the Director of Business Development at Venture North Group.) Why was he hired by the MSB? Wasn’t the MSB concerned about possible conflicts of interest? Or was the MSB a client of Venture North Group? If so, why wasn’t the MSB transparent about this?
What is also interesting about this Japan trip is the connections between these folks. See more later in this post.
From about 2014 until 2017, the MSB tried to make a deal with a Japanese company (REI) to develop a LNG plant at Port Mac. REI pulled out of the project in March, 2017.
The interesting connections btw. the travelers on the Japan trip:
Stephen Colligan’s business partner (they jointly own the company E*Terra) is Frank McQueary. Mr. McQueary is very involved in Alaska Republican politics; he was the Vice Chair of the Alaska Republican Party. Frank’s son-in-law is Robert Sheldon. Well, technically, Frank’s stepdaughter is Marne Sheldon – who is married to Robert Sheldon. (Frank is married to Marne’s mother – Jeannette (Kolesky) McQueary. )
Stephen Colligan and Ron Arvin – in addition to serving on the Assembly together – have been involved in business together.
More about Robert Sheldon – here is his resume from when he applied to be re-appointed to the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct in 2015:
Now – Ron Arvin also worked for NPI – another company which had business/contracts with the Mat-Su Borough Port. More on NPI in another post.
And Ron Arvin and Robert Sheldon served together on the Alaska Energy Authority Board: