Juneau man sues city over cruise industry meeting schedule

Posted: Thursday, April 04, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- A Juneau man is suing the city over the scheduling of meetings with the cruise industry.

In the lawsuit filed in Superior Court Tuesday, Dennis Harris asks that meetings between city officials and representatives from the North West CruiseShip Association be held in Juneau ''at a time and place that is accessible to the public.''

City officials are scheduled to meet with representatives from the cruise ship association April 8 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The association represents nine cruise lines that visit Alaska waters.

Discussions about city money, the city's tourism plan and the port should be public, Harris said.

''I want all decisions to be made in public. I believe in open government,'' Harris told the Juneau Empire. ''Believe you me, I didn't want to do this.''

Harris said he decided to file a lawsuit after the city denied a request from Juneau resident Alan Kinsolving to be teleconferenced into the meeting.

The city's position is that the meeting is not subject to the Open Meetings Act, according to City Attorney John Corso. He said he will file an answer to the lawsuit that will go into more detail.

Corso said he doesn't believe the Open Meetings Act requires meetings be teleconferenced.

''Since it's an informational gathering, it's difficult to determine what if any rules will apply,'' he said. ''This is not like an Assembly meeting, or a Planning Commission meeting or a Harbor Board meeting. It's a group of city officials that are for various reasons all attending the same cruise ship meeting. So I don't know what the circumstances will be when they all get together.''

Assembly member Dale Anderson, Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce, city Port Director Joe Graham, Docks and Harbors Board Chairman Loren Gerhard and city engineer Joe Buck are scheduled to attend the meeting in Vancouver. The city is paying for their travel expenses, which range from $700 to $1,000 a person, Pierce said.

Anderson, Pierce and Mayor Sally Smith met with the cruise association in Seattle in January. Smith said on Monday that city officials aren't going to Vancouver to negotiate. It is a fact-finding trip, she said.

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