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Board won't bend: Assembly denies waiver for Chumley

Posted: Thursday, January 07, 2010

Chief of Staff Hugh Chumley does not deserve special treatment, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly decided Tuesday night.

The assembly rejected by a 5-4 vote an ordinance that would have authorized the sole source purchase of vehicle maintenance equipment from Chumley's Inc., and waived the requirement to file a "Notice of Intent to do Business" form.

Assembly members who voted against the ordinance said they did not want to bend the rules in Chumley's favor.

"I have violated a couple of administrative rules, and I am paying a fine right now for that. I didn't have an ordinance written for me," South peninsula representative Mako Haggerty said. "I'm not going to vote against starting up the process all over again, just as long as all the rules are followed. If they are not there for a reason then maybe we should get rid of the rules so that nobody has to file that stuff."

Assembly President Pete Sprague also said he did not want to make any exceptions.

"At this point, it's the way the code is written. I do not support a waiver in any shape or form," Sprague said.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey encouraged the assembly Tuesday to begin discussing ways to eliminate uncertainties surrounding policies involve business with the borough, employment outside of the borough and other possibilities for 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 borough.

Chumley said his mistake represents a problem in the borough that goes beyond him.

"This is an issue that is being painted with the wrong brush. When the mayor asked me to take this job, I started divesting myself of all the contracts I have, all the businesses I have, with the borough.

"One of my first stops was the attorney's office and I told them about my business and asked them if there was anything I needed to do. They told me I did not have a conflict of interest. Did I make part of the mistake, yes I did, but I'm not the only one," Chumley said.

Gary Knopp, the assembly member who co-sponsored the ordinance to pardon Chumley's blunder, has done his own business with the borough. Unlike Chumley, Knopp filed the form stating his intent.

Since 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 projects ranged in price from less than $1,000 to more than $69,000.

Knopp filed a Notice of Intent to do Business 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.

At Tuesday's assembly meeting, Knopp said the ordinance would help the body get beyond the issue.

"There's not a righter thing to do than this. What else are you going to do? What do you want to do to Mr. Chumley?" Knopp said. "There is absolutely no sense in pushing this further. It is not practical to pursue any other course of action."

Knopp said he would move for the assembly to reconsider the Chumley ordinance at the assembly's next meeting.

Sprague said the assembly would begin to move on from the mistake by forcing Chumley to complete the transaction via proper protocol.

"Bend over backwards to be as transparent as possible. That's when we are going to start putting this behind us," Sprague said. Chumley has since filed a form of intent since.

The ordinance would have been a step backward, according to Homer representative Bill Smith.

"It forgives Mr. Chumley and says he didn't have to do what he was supposed to do," Smith said. "It's inappropriate to have an ordinance to forgive the chief of staff for that, and it certainly sets an unfortunate precedent."

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly's other action:

* The assembly unanimously enacted an ordinance appropriating $4,960,000 in General Obligation Bond Proceeds to the Bond Capital Projects Fund for Central Peninsula Landfill Expansion Project.

* The assembly unanimously enacted an ordinance appropriating $50,000 from the Seward-Bear Creek Flood Service Area for Repayment of Funds advanced by the Borough's general fund in FY2009.

* The assembly unanimously enacted as amended an ordinance authorizing an amendment to the Tsalteshi Trails Association Lease to provide a 10-year extension of the term.

Andrew Waite can be reached at andrew.waite@peninsulaclarion.com



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