Complaint against Alaska attorney general dropped

Former U.S. attorney alleged Marquez' role in pipeline parley was compromised

Posted: Sunday, January 01, 2006

ANCHORAGE - The state Personnel Board on Friday dismissed an ethics complaint which requested Alaska Attorney General David Marquez, a former oil industry lawyer and executive, recuse himself from Alaska natural gas pipeline negotiations.

"I accepted this appointment as attorney general with my pledge to serve to the utmost limits of my abilities the best interests of this state," Marquez said Friday in a prepared statement. "I will continue to honor this commitment as long as I serve in this capacity."

The complaint filed Aug. 4 by former U.S. Attorney Wev Shea alleged Marquez was in violation of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act because his role in the pipeline negotiations could alter the value of his deferred compensation plan from two oil companies, which Shea said was valued at more than $1 million.

In dismissing the complaint, the Personnel Board's independent counsel found Marquez does not own shares in either BP or ConocoPhillips, and he does not control the rate of return on either compensation plan. In fact, the ConocoPhillips package is held in mutual funds.

It also noted he worked for neither company involved in the negotiations but for their predecessors, ARCO and Phillips Petroleum.

The decision also discounted the allegation that Marquez is a lead player in the state's negotiations with BP, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil to build a $20 billion pipeline to take natural gas from the North Slope, through Canada to markets in the Midwest.

Instead, the decision says Marquez only serves in an advisory role to the state negotiating team. It found he would have little influence on any deal, whose final terms must be approved by Gov. Frank Murkowski, the Commissioner of Revenue and the Alaska State Legislature.

"I respect the initial decision, and I have 15 days to file a response, and I'll file a response," Shea said Friday.

Shea has another complaint pending against Marquez with the Personnel Board. In it, he claims Marquez broke attorney-client privileges by publicly commenting on a memo written to him by former Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin.

Irwin was dismissed last fall after criticizing the state's negotiations with oil producers on the natural gas pipeline in the memo, which Murkowski publicly released.

Marquez worked for ARCO Alaska Inc. for about 21 years, first as an attorney and later as a vice president and chief counsel. He also was Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.'s general counsel from 1991-1993. He retired from the industry in 2001 after a brief stint as vice president and chief counsel for Phillips Alaska Inc. He practiced law part time until being hired by the Department of Law in 2003.

Marquez became the state's attorney general on March 31. He replaced Gregg Renkes, who resigned in February amid conflict of interest allegations for his role in a trade agreement between Alaska and Taiwan.

Renkes helped shape the agreement to export Beluga coal to Taiwan. The deal mentioned the use of coal-drying technology patented by Denver-based KFx Inc., a company in which Renkes owned stock valued at more than $126,000 at its peak.

An outside investigator concluded the amount of stock Renkes owned was not enough to be considered legally significant. Renkes said he resigned to distance his family from continued personal attacks over the deal.

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