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Assembly may consider discipline: Body will determine how to handle misstep by borough administration

Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2009

For the first time in recent memory, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will take up the issue of how to discipline a member of the government for breaking borough law.

Assembly President Pete Sprague said Wednesday that on Dec. 1 the assembly's Policy and Procedure Committee will consider whether a sole source contract allowing Chief of Staff Hugh Chumley to sell equipment to the borough violated the law, and, if so, who needs to be disciplined.

The sale, made without a required conflict of interest document, constituted a crime, according to borough ordinance.

The assembly could take one of two actions to address the violation: pursue it as a criminal action or address it administratively. If addressed as a criminal act, the violation carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and or imprisonment for 30 days.

Instead, Sprague said the assembly will take the administrative route and use a procedure for disciplining one of its own members as the basis of their actions.

Sprague said this was the first time in his more than 11 years on the assembly that he's seen the body address an issue like this.

"This is new ground, so that's why we're using this model with what were doing," he said.

The problem transaction got its start Aug. 6 following an $18,000 equipment purchase from Chumley's Inc. by the borough.

Chumley violated a borough ordinance when he failed to file a Notice of Intent to do Business. The form is used to note when an entity doing business with the borough may have a conflict of interest.

The incident didn't come to the assembly's attention until borough Mayor Dave Carey reported it at the Policy and Procedures Committee meeting held the afternoon before the Nov. 10 assembly meeting.

Carey reported at that time that Chumley had returned the full $18,000.

Chumley, Carey and Purchasing Officer Mark Fowler have all gone on record as taking blame for the mistake.

According to Sprague, part of what the committee will need to discuss is who's to blame.

He said the basis of the discussion is "to determine what further action needs to be taken."

Assemblyman Gary Knopp, representing Kalifornsky Beach, chairs the committee.

"We want to get all the facts," Knopp said. "We want to get the intent. Personally I don't believe there's any malicious intent. That's what we want to verify."

The model the assembly is presently following is a multi-step process that assembly members may use to address "improper actions for possible censure."

The process, as outlined in the assembly manual, may start with a notification to the assembly president of the improper action.

The president may then launch an investigation that includes gathering relevant information and meeting with any involved parties before referring the matter to the Policy and Procedures Committee. That's the stage the assembly is in now.

Following their discussion, the committee must present to the assembly, where a motion may be made to censure, opening the topic for further debate.

The assembly member in question, or in this case the administration, has the option to speak during this discourse.

Should the motion pass, the censure is reduced to a written form stating the basis for the motion and conduct for which censure was made, and the borough clerk is to maintain that motion among the permanent records of the assembly.

Dante Petri can be reached at dante.petri@peninsulaclarion.com.



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