Assembly to return funds seized from boy's bank account

Posted: Friday, September 13, 2002

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- The Anchorage municipal clerk threatened to resign Thursday unless the Assembly returned nearly $700 seized from a 6-year-old boy's savings account.

By early afternoon, Greg Moyer got the word: the money will be restored to David Antunes' Wells Fargo bank account. The $672.34 was to have gone toward paying some of the attorney fees of the boy's uncle, Robert W. Hayes, an assembly candidate who unsuccessfully sued the city and Moyer last spring over an election dispute involving the winning candidate, Brian Whittle.

''I was not making an idle threat,'' Moyer said of his notice to resign. ''I won't be part of something that is not right.''

The cash seizure was disclosed late Tuesday night when Hayes, holding a photo of the boy, spoke to the Anchorage Assembly at its regular meeting. Hayes said the funds were targeted because he is a trustee for his nephew's account.

He said he decided to complain to assembly members after the bank notified him of the seizure last week.

''I was very angry,'' Hayes said Thursday. ''An innocent child's life savings was stolen. It's not my money. It's his money.''

In April, Hayes ran for an East Anchorage assembly seat, coming in a distant third.

Later that month, he sued in Superior Court, contesting Whittle's eligibility to run because redistricting had moved Whittle's longtime neighborhood to a new district. The city charter mandates a candidate live in a district for at least a year.

The Alaska Supreme Court sided with Superior Court Peter Michalski in rejecting Hayes' challenge and Whittle won the seat in a May runoff election.

In June, Michalski awarded $1,426.66 in attorney fees to the municipal clerk and assembly, calling Hayes' lawsuit frivolous. Including collector fees, Hayes owes the city $1,721.

Assembly chairman Dick Traini said he directed assembly attorney Tom Klinkner to collect the fees. Hayes, however, said he shouldn't have to pay for raising a public-interest question through his lawsuit.

A process server discovered the Wells Fargo account through an assets search on Hayes, according to Klinkner. He said only Hayes name and social security number turned up on the Wells Fargo account. No one knew it was a child's account until Hayes told assembly.

Klinkner said he has seen no independent evidence of the boy's connection but began the process of returning the money Thursday in response to directives from Moyer and Traini. Officials now are seeking to tap into Hayes' Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend check.

Traini said he decided to act on the matter late Tuesday after the assembly meeting.

''Our purpose was not to take the child's account but to go after Mr. Hayes for attorney fees,'' he said. ''The city should not have to absorb the cost. It wouldn't be fair to the taxpayers of this town.''

Assemblyman Dan Sullivan disagreed. Even though the courts threw out Hayes' suit, the case forced answers to an important issue prompted by redistricting, he said. He noted that Traini and Moyer had discussed Hayes' original challenge at an earlier assembly meeting and had agreed the courts should decide the issue.

Sullivan said he plans to introduce an assembly resolution Sept. 24 asking that the fees be waived.

''Why punish the guy who raised the issue?'' he said.

Hayes said he will fight any efforts to bill him for attorney fees. If he fails, he will seek to pay in installments. That's all he can afford as a fire alarm technician for a security system company.

''I have a wife and two children,'' he said. ''I'm living from paycheck to paycheck.''

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