Mayor pitches fix for mistake: Carey suggests borough employees be better versed in policies

Posted: Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Following the mess that resulted from a Kenai Peninsula Borough official's failure to properly declare some of his company's business with the borough, the mayor on Tuesday proposed a cleanup.

At the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly's Policies and Procedures committee meeting Tuesday afternoon, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey laid out a series of recommendations meant to prevent present and future borough employees from making the same mistake as Chief of Staff Hugh Chumley by eliminating "ambiguities" in borough code.

Carey's recommendations are intended to ensure that all borough employees be thoroughly versed in the borough's policies regarding doing business with the borough, taking employment outside the borough and other scenarios that could potentially cause a conflict of interest.

Chumley, who owns 50 percent of Sterling-based Chumley's Inc., failed to file a "Notice of Intent to Do Business" form before completing an $18,000 deal with the borough in August.

Borough ordinance requires any borough employee to fill out such a form before making any business deals with the governing body.

In a letter sent to the borough assembly members outlining his recommendations, Carey said that Chumley's mistake is not uncommon or difficult to make.

"Many new service area employees, service area board members and commissioners have not been educated or adequately informed about the 'requirements,'" Carey said in his letter.

"One senior commissioner with over 20 years of service and work for the borough by his firm was not aware of the "Intent to Do Business" (ITDB) form. It also appears that an ITDB form is lacking by at least one current assembly member and another assembly member appears to have omitted required information."

The mayor did not identify specific borough employees in his letter or at the meeting, which made Assembly President Pete Sprague uncomfortable.

"This report talks about assembly members. I have a discomfort alluding to assembly members and not naming them," Sprague told the mayor. Sprague said he would like to see the mayor publicly identify the individuals in question.

Carey did not indicate whether would comply with Sprague's request.

Not all borough employees have had trouble with intent to do business notifications.

Since assembly member Gary Knopp was elected in October 2006, his contracting firm, G and H Construction, has done $194,325.25 in business with the borough, according to records. The work includes snow removal, road construction and slash removal in projects that ranged in price from less than $1,000 to more than $69,000.

Knopp filed an intent to do business form with the borough on Oct. 13, 2006. The form is effective as long as Knopp remains in office.

"When I was elected to this position I said, 'Look, occasionally I do work for the borough. Is there anything I need to do?' And that's when I was told about the conflict of interest form," Knopp said after the meeting.

Carey's recommendations were discussed hours before the borough assembly was to consider an ordinance that would essentially pardon Chumley's error. The proposed ordinance, sponsored by Knopp and assembly member Charlie Pierce, would authorize the purchase of vehicle maintenance equipment from Chumley's Inc. and waive the requirement to file a notice of intent to do business with the borough.

Passing the ordinance that pardons someone within the borough after not following borough code would set a precedent that could allow borough employees to do future business with the borough without filing the proper forms. But Knopp said that is not the case because the ordinance will be accompanied by a systematic fix.

"If you were to punish Mr. Chumley, he takes the sole brunt of this when the errors were made by the legal department, purchasing department, the mayor's office," Knopp, the Policies and Procedures committee chairman, said after the meeting. "What we've really done is learned a lot from this process. We're hoping to move forward, clean up our messes and fix some of the codes and move on."

Carey's letter of recommendations suggests that all new employees receive and sign an informational packet that addresses these policies. He also encouraged consistent training on these policies. In addition, Carey's letter said that all borough employees with an Alaska Business License should fill out an ITDB form.

The assembly also needs to clearly define policy surrounding outside employment and potential conflict of interest, Carey advised.

Dante Petri contributed to this report.

Andrew Waite can be reached at

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