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Attorney says panel is treating Fairbanks mayor unfairly

Posted: January 29, 2014 - 1:06am

FAIRBANKS — Alaska Public Offices Commission staff members are investigating the new mayor of Fairbanks differently than his campaign opponent, according to the mayor’s lawyer.

Attorney Jason Gazewood wrote in a formal response to the commission that its staff has used interviews and subpoenas to investigate contributions received by the campaign of Mayor John Eberhart, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The commission is “conducting a wide-ranging investigation based upon a vague and unsubstantiated complaint that failed to make any specific substantiated allegations,” he said.

In contrast, an investigation of Vivian Stiver, whom Eberhart defeated in November, was confined to the “express complaints stated in a clear and concise complaint substantiated with evidence,” Gazewood said. The commission’s staff accepted unsworn written answers while investigating Stiver, he said.

Both Eberhart and Stiver were investigated for complaints related to corporate campaign contributions. Alaska law prohibits donations of money, time or services by corporations.

Stiver was fined $650 for accepting checks collected by employees of the Ranch Motel. The corporation was managed by political activist Donna Gilbert, a Stiver supporter.

A commission staff attorney has recommended $4,000 in fines and reimbursement for Eberhart’s campaign.

The commission’s staff concluded the Eberhart campaign used phones and a photo copier at Eberhart’s previous employer, the Tanana Chiefs Conference. The recommended fine also covers the campaign’s acceptance of $500 in catering from Cafe de Paris Catering Co., which Eberhart assumed was a sole proprietorship and not a corporation. The campaign reimbursed the company for the contribution.

The commission’s staff says Eberhart received services valued at $384.25 from his former employer. Eberhart valued the services received at $33.18.

Gazewood said Eberhart’s use of the Tanana Chiefs Conference equipment was “incidental.” The nonprofit organization usually charges employees for incidental use of equipment, did not know Eberhart was using the equipment and did not intend to influence the election, Gazewood said.

The commission next meets in February.

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