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Yakutat postal clerks stop delivery of anonymous letters containing allegations of improprieties by city officials

Envelopes contained allegations of improprieties by city officials

Posted: May 9, 2011 - 12:22am

Standing at the Yakutat Post Office counter last week, resident Rube Evans was hoping to read some mail other than his wife’s Chinese newspapers and was pleasantly surprised to find an envelope with his name on it.

“I would never make it through one of those newspapers,” Evans said. “They have some nice photos but, unless my wife reads them to me, they are gibberish.”

Unfortunately for Evans he would never make it through the letter, either, as postal clerk Jenn Bell asked to have it back.

It was part of a stack of envelopes which the postal clerk said were not properly addressed, and were supposed to be sent to a mail recovery center in Georgia.

Inside the envelopes were various court documents pertaining to a Superior Court case in Juneau May 11 between the City and Borough of Yakutat and Alaskan Adventure Tours, Inc., and a letter claiming to be from a concerned citizen of Yakutat who stated he or she was following the case.

The letter was derogatory towards Yakutat police chief John Nichols, and Yakutat City Manager Frank Ryman among others. It accused them of fraud, perjury, libel, filing false police reports and evidence tampering, among other accusations.

“It is a bunch of B.S.,” Yakutat Police Chief John Nichols said. “I am pretty sure I know who is responsible for this but I am not putting forth the effort. It has been an ongoing saga. It has been a lot of controversy.”

Nichols said the city could probably check the letters for fingerprints and the person responsible could face serious consequences if caught.

“We would obviously like to know who mailed them,” Ryman said. “It is all just bottom-feeder gossip. It was inflammatory.”

Ryman said postal clerks told him that the letters were dropped into the drop box the evening before, were noticed to be anonymous, and were pulled because they are not supposed to deliver anonymous mail.

“They had to pull it by law,” Ryman said. “I think after 9/11 you have to pull all anonymous mail. It wasn’t us; it wasn’t any request on my part. Things like this are just ugly hollow gossip. If anything, in my opinion, it is an obstruction of justice. Because, in my opinion a local resident did not mail it, despite the fact they say it was a local resident, and if we can prove that, it was an attempt to get people removed and stop a court action. It would be a lie in that effort and be well within obstruction of justice and a 10-year prison sentence. Considering the ugliness of that letter I wouldn’t hesitate to file, in a minute, criminal charges if we can identify the mailer.”

Ryman said if they did try to get fingerprints, “the Assembly would actually think we were wasting too much money.”

While the contents of the envelopes was incendiary, their non-delivery ignited a small storm of phone calls to the Empire.

Evans didn’t get his letter, but the Juneau Empire received a similar large manila envelope. It had a return address that read Yakutat Citizen Association, 99689, and postage stamped from Yakutat.

“She said she would get into trouble,” Evans said of Bell. “She said she was told not to mail them out. She’s a nice enough girl so I didn’t want her to get into trouble.”

Bell had just handed Evans his overflow mail of newspapers and had gone to get another package. Evans noticed the large manila envelope among the “gibberish” and opened it, pulled out the materials and was reading them.

Evans said that Bell then returned and said, “You are not supposed to have that. I was told not to put those in the boxes.”

Evans told Bell that it has his name on it and Bell said again that she would be in trouble. So Evans handed it back.

Bell said that it was in with the newspapers that were too large for his box and he did have the letter and she asked for it back.

Bell denied she was asked by someone to not put the letters in the mail. Bell stated she stopped delivery on most of the envelopes because they did not have proper addresses. Evans is a postal box holder and the letter was made out to him as “General Delivery.” Bell said the letter also didn’t have a correct return address.”

Bell said all the pulled letters were sent to the Atlanta Mail Recovery Center.

Some of the envelopes did reach postal customers, including Alaska Adventure Tours owner Kimberly Byler.

“I did not come close to getting a fair trial in the Juneau Civil Case of 2010 against the City and Borough of Yakutat,” she said.

“The new evidence of fraud and perjury speaks for itself. I am confident that Judge Collins will uphold the law and dismiss this case based on Rule 60 (b)(3) fraud and misconduct. The court should have a zero tolerance for such conduct as perjury,” Byler said.

Byler denied she was the author of the letter

“I would hate to speculate one way or the other,” Yakutat resident Jack Endicot said. “It was interesting but I don’t have any of the facts and I didn’t really follow the trial. From what I can see the affidavits in the letter were pretty inflammatory. I haven’t heard anything about the town wanting to get a vigilante group together. I didn’t get one but a fellow I drink with down at the coffee shop showed me his. My gut reaction is let’s just see where the cards fall.”

Ryman said the Yakutat Borough Assembly knows the case, the people involved, and the tax code pertaining to those named in the court documents, and knows the accusations in the letter are not true.

“I suppose I could probably take the letter as a personal self-criticism,” Ryman said. “And use it constructively to try and improve my image as being egotistical.”

There is oral argument hearing for Alaska Adventure Tours, Inc. vs. The City and Borough of Yakutat scheduled for May 11 in Juneau Superior Court before Judge Patricia Collins.

Alaska Adventures has lost a previous civil case to Yakutat.

“The court case is ongoing,” Ryman said. “There is another trial pending in Anchorage. We have had three court hearings with these folks and won all three of them. I suspect we will probably be victorious in the rest of them. I think the letter itself is probably an attempt to derail it and I don’t think it was successful. Most people in a small town recognize that as unsigned trash and it was very derogatory against some very good people.”

According to Ryman, in 2007 the CBY attempted to get Alaska Adventures to obtain a CBY permit and to pay CBY taxes. A subsequent court judgment in Nov. 26, 2006 favored CBY and awarded them over $46,000. Alaska Adventures then asked for a jury trial in Juneau that again favored CBY with a judgment of over $200,000.

Court documents from that trial show a Special Verdict Form signed Feb. 16, 2010 in the case, that supports CBY claims, alleging that Alaskan Adventure Tours and owner Kimberly Byler used fraudulent conveyances of their assets, testified untruthfully to the value of assets, testified untruthfully regarding availability of business records, and intentionally transferred or concealed assets to herself in violation of a court order prohibiting such action.

A subsequent March 18 Judgment of Fraudulent Conveyance, signed by Judge Collins, placed judgment in favor of Yakutat and awarded it additional attorney fees. Collins also filed a Civil Contempt Order against Byler for, among other actions, testifying that the value of certain assets transferred to her in exchange for $360,000 was less than the actual value of the assets transferred. Byler had testified a vessel, the M/V Sound Adventure was worth $100,000, yet previously she estimated the value at $50,000 for purposes of transferring this along with other assets to herself in exchange for asserted back wages claim for $360,000 and, shortly thereafter signed a representation to the State of Alaska that the fair market value of the vessel was $250,000.

The Byler’s claim that State Troopers and Yakutat Police Chief Nichols and City Manager Ryman have lied repeatedly during the trials.

Darren Byler, Kimberly’s husband, also read the circulated letter seized by the postal clerks in Yakutat and denied knowing who had written it.

“I commend the Citizens of Yakutat for demanding answers from their city officials and police department regarding the honesty and credibility of those in charge. The level of fraud in this case by Ryman and Nichols is significant. There is no doubt that the court will reverse this judgment if the law is followed. I would encourage the City of Yakutat to conduct a thorough background check before they hire their next police chief and city manager.”

Since the original judgment, the parties have continued to battle over the assets of AAT. The Estate of Jerry Byler, whose death on an AAT vessel brought the Bylers into Yakutat where they had tax litigation, filed a wrongful death claim against AAT that was contested by CBY. Both parties have alleged fraud in the interviews of that death investigation.

An oral argument is being heard Wednesday before Judge Collins. Darren Byler said they have deposed a state trooper in Anchorage last week and have discovered more lies. CBY conducted a deposition of law enforcement personnel in Juneau on Friday.

• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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