New indictment for Maw on PFD fraud charges

At left, Roland Maw and Dave Martin, both from the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, talk with Board of Fisheries member John Jensen, center, and Bruce Gabrys, a commercial drift fisherman, during the 2014 Upper Cook Inlet Board of Fisheries meeting in Anchorage. On Jan. 18, the state secured an indictment against Maw for 12 felonies and five misdemeanors alleging he illegally obtained Permanent Fund Dividends from 2009-14. (Photo/File/Peninsula Clarion)

Two weeks after a Superior Court judge dismissed charges against former United Cook Inlet Drift Association Executive Director Roland Maw on procedural grounds, the State of Alaska secured a new indictment.

 

The state, spearheaded by special prosecutor Lisa Kelley, charged Maw with six felony counts of theft, six felony counts of unsworn falsification, and five misdemeanor charges.

The felony charges each correspond to years between 2009 and 2014 when Maw received an Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend.

The Montana Department of Fish and Wildlife opened an investigation into Maw’s residency in February 2015 after he was found to be holding resident licenses in Montana while also drawing the benefits of Alaska residency. Maw pled no contest to the Montana charges in May 2015.

The 12 counts now brought against Maw are new, technically, but the five misdemeanor charges are the same as in the previous set of indictments.

A three-day trial is tentatively scheduled for April 24, but Kelley admits that date will likely change.

Alaska Superior Court First District Judge Louis Menendez had dismissed the felony charges against Maw in Juneau on Jan. 3 after agreeing with the defense that the state prosecution had not properly presented hearsay evidence to the grand jury, which would incurably sour the jury against him.

Kelley explained that Maw avoids double jeopardy — being tried twice for the same offense — because the charges themselves had no final resolution. Rather, it was only the indictments that Menendez threw out. The state presented evidence to another grand jury and will proceed to the trial process, which may or may not happen.

“The next step is defense reviewing the new indictment,” she said. “It’s entirely possible they’ll have the option to challenge the new indictment. If they either don’t challenge it, or the judge dismisses, the next step would be going to trial.”

Maw’s trial process is a vestige of a fisheries politics fiasco stretching back to Gov. Bill Walker’s first days in office in early 2015. That included the ousting of former Board of Fisheries chairman Karl Johnstone by Walker, a chaotic confirmation cycle to replace him including the nomination and subsequent withdrawal of Maw after the charges became known in Montana, a one-vote defeat in the Legislature for Walker’s next pick, and eventually the resignation of Walker’s Boards and Commissions Director Karen Gillis. Although Walker had already nominated Sam Cotten for the position, Maw also applied for the job of Alaska Department of Fish and Game commissioner in December 2014. Under state law, the Board of Fisheries must interview and forward a list of qualified commissioner candidates from which the governor may choose.

The board, then chaired by Karl Johnstone, unanimously deemed Maw unqualified to be interviewed for the job.

In response to criticism of the board action by UCIDA and then-House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, Walker chastised the Board of Fisheries and told Johnstone he wouldn’t be reappointed with his term about to expire June 30, 2015.

Johnstone resigned on Jan. 14, and Walker appointed Maw to replace him on the board on Jan. 20, 2015. Maw dropped out of consideration soon after on Feb. 20, 2015, shortly before the investigation in Montana became public knowledge.

Walker’s next choice, Kenai-area habitat advocate Robert Ruffner, was torpedoed in the Legislature by a 29-30 vote after sportfishing groups organized against him. Walker then appointed Bob Mumford, who later resigned after only a year on the board rather than seek confirmation for the seat.

In 2016, Walker then chose not to reappoint Fritz Johnson of Dillingham, and chairman Tom Kluberton announced he was not interested in another three-year term on the board, citing the political burnout from the contentious job. With three openings, Walker had less trouble with his appointments and all three were confirmed unanimously by the Legislature last session, including Ruffner in his second try.

DJ Summers can be reached at daniel.summers@alaskajournal.com

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