Legislative panel takes up nominations

Posted: Friday, April 07, 2000

Controversy over Gov. Tony Knowles' nominations to the panel that writes the rules for federal fisheries off Alaska will likely continue at legislative hearings this afternoon.

At issue are Knowles' choices of sport-fishing activist Bob Penney and Dave Benton, retiring deputy commissioner of the state Department of Fish and Game, as his top picks for two seats on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The U.S. Secretary of Commerce is to appoint the council seats from Knowles' nominations.

Aides to Sen. Jerry Ward, R-Anchorage, told the Kenai Legislative Information Office that Ward plans to introduce a substitute for Senate Joint Resolution 13 that deals with the council nominations.

The state Senate Resources Committee, chaired by Sen. Rick Halford, R-Chugiak, holds a hearing on the resolution at 3 p.m. today. It will take public testimony by teleconference from the Kenai Legislative Information Office.

Senate Joint Resolution 13 originally dealt with the membership of the Pacific Salmon Commis-sion.

Sport fishers have supported the nomination of Penney and Benton, but commercial fishers have objected, particularly to the nomination of Penney.

This week, commercial fishing groups alleged that Knowles did not consult commercial and recreational fishers as required by law prior to submitting his nominations.

They also questioned why lists of potential nominees provided by the governor's Boards and Commissions Office omitted the names Knowles nominated for the two council seats.

Knowles' press secretary Bob King said the governor received numerous suggestions about whom he should nominate, and took those into consideration.

"These are his picks. They were made after listening to the comments of the people," King said. "That's what we feel the consultation requirement is."

King said Boards and Commissions lists people who have applied for council seats or whose names have been formally submitted.

"But the governor isn't limited to just the people who express an interest," King said. "He is free to pick people he thinks are qualified.

"The Boards and Commissions Office can't read his mind."

He said Knowles did not advertise his choices or seek comments on them.

"We do listen to comments from the public, both general and specific, and we do take those into consideration," he said. "If people are upset with the process or procedures, or if they feel these candidates aren't qualified, they are welcome to raise those concerns with the secretary."

The Petersburg Vessel Owners Association has written Commerce Secretary William Daley alleging that Knowles' nominations violated public process and federal law. United Fishermen of Alaska has written Knowles objecting to the process he followed. UFA forwarded copies of its letter to Daley, Alaska's congressional delegation, the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Steve Pennoyer, regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

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