Legal questions squash plans for Kenai Peninsula parent lobbyists

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2002

KENAI (AP) -- A legal glitch has grounded plans for the Kenai Peninsula Borough to pay for a group of parents to fly to Juneau to lobby on behalf of the school district.

A delegation of parents had planned to be in the capital Wednesday to meet with legislators about financial woes of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

The district had arranged for the borough to pay for plane tickets for 11 parents and two students to accompany six district and borough officials.

But last week Assemblyman Paul Fischer, a former legislator, brought up the question of the legality of the payments on his radio show.

When borough Mayor Dale Bagley and borough attorney Colette Thompson checked the record, they verified that the original $10,000 the borough assembly authorized for the trip was for district and borough employees or elected officials. Assembly members said nothing about parents.

Moreover, when Thompson delved into the matter further, she discovered that state law bans such a payment unless the parents and students register with the state as official lobbyists. She listened to a tape of the assembly meeting, researched statutes and contacted the Alaska Public Office Commission.

''According to APOC, if the borough or the school district pays them to go to Juneau, that makes them lobbyists,'' Bagley said. ''If they are going down on their own, it's perfectly fine.''

Schools Superintendent Donna Peterson said she had unrelated qualms about the trip after three school board members returned from Juneau last week.

They made the rounds of lawmakers' offices along with other members of the Alaska Association of School Boards. Their report suggested that it might be too early in the session to get the best advantage of sending such a large group.

''With all of those things working together, the decision was made not to do it,'' she said.

Instead, a hastily reorganized contingent of eight district employees and elected officials left Tuesday night for the Capitol.

The parents are considering options for making the trip later. Their choices are to register as lobbyists, find other sources to pay for the tickets or not go at all.

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