Senator calls for debate on Renkes

Republicans: No action should be taken before end of investigation

Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2005

Sen. Hollis French said Wednesday the Legislature should take up conflict of interest allegations against Attorney General Gregg Renkes, including a debate on whether to begin impeachment proceedings against the attorney general.

French, D-Anchorage, characterized Renkes' investments and personal dealings with KFx Inc. while promoting a proposed $1 billion coal deal with Taiwan as a routine conflict of interest case that should have been resolved months ago.

"I am not calling for the impeachment of (the attorney general)," French said. "I am saying that it is time for the members of this body to begin to think about it and to debate it. We all have an obligation to protect the public trust."

French made his comments on the Senate floor Wednesday. He said he had not expected the matter to be lingering when the session began. The allegations against Renkes first surfaced in October.

Two Republican senators responded to French, saying no action should be taken before completion of an independent investigation by Robert Bundy, an Anchorage lawyer and former U.S. attorney.

"I think we need to wait for that report, as hard as that may be," said Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak.

"This is a delicate situation. A member of the administration's reputation is on the line," said Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks.

Renkes, making a presentation later in the day before the House Judiciary Committee, was asked by Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, to address the allegations.

Renkes thanked the lawmakers for their patience and said he looked forward to Bundy's report being released.

"It's been very difficult for me to remain silent in the face of these charges," Renkes told the committee.

Gov. Frank Murkowski, who asked Bundy to investigate, said he will wait for the report.

The three-member state personnel board also is investigating the matter.

Renkes owned and actively traded stock valued at more than $100,000 even as he was promoting the coal deal that would have benefited the Denver-based KFx. The deal involved exporting Beluga coal from Cook Inlet after going through a drying process patented by KFx.

The Anchorage Daily News also has reported that Renkes' has personal relationships with KFx executives and has worked as a consultant for the company.

Renkes sold his stock in the company after news reports of his investments were published.

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