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Proposed ordinance targets borough assembly members

Representatives' actions would prohibit acquiring of government jobs for 1 year

Posted: Sunday, August 04, 2002

Assembly member Betty Glick of Kenai and three others are expected to introduce an ordinance at Tuesday's Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting that would prohibit departing assembly members from accepting borough government jobs within one year of leaving office.

Glick said she would address that issue when she applied for appointment to the District 1 assembly seat being vacated by former assembly member Bill Popp. She was appointed to that seat effective July 11 and will serve until the Oct. 1 election. Popp resigned to take a job as the borough's advocate for a pipeline spur to bring North Slope natural gas to the Kenai Peninsula.

In an interview shortly after she submitted her name for consideration, Glick said she did not like the idea of elected officials taking government jobs immediately upon leaving office. While adopting the ordinance would not affect Popp's employment, it would preclude such rapid jumps from the elective to bureaucratic arenas in the future, she said.

Assembly members Pete Sprague of Soldotna, Tim Navarre of Kenai and Milli Martin of Diamond Ridge-Seldovia are co-sponsors of the ordinance. Sprague is listed as the prime sponsor.

In a memo to the assembly, Sprague and Navarre said accepting employment with the borough immediately after leaving office was legal, but "it may lead to the appearance of impropriety."

The Alaska Constitution prohibits state legislators from taking positions with the state government for which benefits were increased while they were in office. It also bans them taking jobs that were created while they were in office. Beyond the limits set by those caveats, however, state lawmakers are free to accept government employment.

The proposed borough law goes further. It "draws a bright line by simply prohibiting all such employment within one year of leaving the assembly," Sprague and Navarre said in their memo.

The ordinance would amend a part of the borough code that already prohibits assembly members from serving on any board or commission while also on the assembly.

The ordinance to be introduced Tuesday was under discussion even before Glick said in early July that she wanted to address the issue. But hers was the statement that largely publicized the matter.

"Even before Betty made her public statement, both me and Pete had talked to (borough attorney) Colette Thompson about an ordinance of this nature," Navarre said. "It was already in the works. It came to the top because of the situation."

Sprague said Friday he began working on it in early June.

Navarre said he could recall only three times that an assembly member resigned to take a job with the borough.

Gary Fandel was a member of the assembly from 1984 until March 1987, when he resigned to take job as a borough appraiser.

In 2000, assembly member Jack Brown resigned to take a job as Business Development Manager with the Kenai Peninsula Borough Community and Economic Development Division.

"And now, Bill Popp," Navarre said. "Those are the only ones I know of."

Former assembly member Don McCloud left the assembly in October 1983, according to the borough clerk's office. He then took a job as borough maintenance director, which he held until 1990. He returned to that job for about a year and a half in 2000, according to Richard Campbell, director of human resources.

Navarre said he thinks the ordinance is a good idea and not likely to reduce the pool of talent for future borough jobs.

"I don't see it hurting the borough. It's not like there aren't other qualified people out there," he said.

Sprague said he sponsored the ordinance after hearing from constituents.

"It's twice in last year this has happened," he said, referring to Brown and Popp. "After this last time, I heard from a lot of people who were not happy that we did not have something like this (ordinance) in place."

Glick said Friday she was unaware at the time she promised to work to change the law that Sprague already was moving in that direction.

"Unbeknownst to me, Pete Sprague was planning to address this issue," she said. "He had a draft prepared."

Glick said Sprague told her he'd based his draft on a draft Glick had worked on back in 1987, which never was introduced.

Glick said she can't see why any assembly member would oppose the change but said she'll need at least one more member, along with those introducing the measure, to see it pass.



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