Head of oil advisory group cleared of wrongdoing

Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The head of an advisory oil group accused of misusing funds has been cleared of wrongdoing, according to the board of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council.

John Devens, the group's executive director, was accused of misspending money on lengthy business trips, flying first class and staying in expensive hotels in Washington, D.C.

Devens, the former Valdez mayor and two-time Democratic congressional candidate, was also accused of using council funds to move his mother from the Lower 48 to Alaska.

The claims were made by an unidentified source within the citizens' advisory council, the Coast Guard said, coming at a time when the Coast Guard is deciding whether to recertify the group.

Peyton Coleman, commander of the Coast Guard's marine safety office in Valdez, brought the accusations to council attention last month. But after spending an estimated $5,000 to $10,000 to have Robert Bundy, former U.S. attorney for Alaska, investigate the claims, the council board has cleared Devens and the staff.

Bundy's report shoots down every accusation made against the leader, the board said.

Now, it wants the Coast Guard to apologize for the way it handled the case. Board members said the investigation was costly and might have been avoided had the Coast Guard first reviewed expense reports and other documents.

One member said the apology should come from Coleman himself.

''He overstepped his bounds,'' said Margy Johnson, a board member and Cordova's mayor. ''He seemed to be basing these allegations on gossip and innuendo.''

Coleman's acting boss said he followed Coast Guard procedures. The agency doesn't consider the matter over because it still must review Bundy's investigation report, said commander Jean Butler, the Coast Guard's acting chief of marine safety in Alaska.

The citizens' advisory council was set up to watchdog oil operations after the Exxon spill. Most of its operating budget is provided by Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the oil consortium that runs the 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline from the North Slope to Valdez, said Stan Jones, a council spokesman.

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