State briefs

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2002

Sitka chief put on administrative leave amid controversy

JUNEAU - Sitka officials put the Southeast town's resigning police chief on administrative leave amid allegations of criminal misconduct in his department. Bill McLendon resigned as chief Jan. 16 with his last day of work scheduled for Feb. 22.

His resignation, which he said was for family reasons, coincided with the delivery of a letter from a California forensic scientist to City Administrator Tony Zimmer alleging nearly a dozen legal and procedural violations by the police department, McLendon and a city worker. Allegations of misconduct by the chief and other officers made by a former Sitka police lieutenant also were made.

Zimmer said Thursday his decision to put McLendon on administrative leave was not a disciplinary action. "I wanted to facilitate an entirely independent investigation," Zimmer said.

Zimmer said he has no plans to put any other officers named in the allegations on leave.

"All I have right now are allegations. I have no corroborating evidence or witnesses I know to be credible," Zimmer said. "The chief is on leave because it would be awkward for him to be there as the troopers audit his department."

Bob Groder, a retired state trooper, will be acting chief until a new chief is hired, which should be in about three or four months. Zimmer also hired Ketchikan Borough Assembly member Dick Burton to assess the police department and recommend changes.

Carrs/Safeway plans spruce-up

JUNEAU - Operators of the state's largest grocery chain have begun renovation projects at four Anchorage stores and have plans to upgrade statewide stores in future years.

Safeway plans to upgrade its Carrs and Safeway stores at all 28 locations, said Glenn Peterson, district manager for Anchorage, Wasilla, Ketchikan and Juneau.

"We are going to be doing at least a decor package and upgrading equipment," in Juneau, Peterson said. "But it may not be major renovations." He did not have specifics of when work might begin or its cost.

Small avalanche on Thane

JUNEAU - A small avalanche came down on Thane Road on Thursday afternoon.

Thane Road was open and passable after the snowslide, said Greg Patz, chief of maintenance and operations for the Southeast region of the Alaska Department of Transportation. "A small amount came down. Just enough to put out a powder cloud and dust the road," he said.

The department fired howitzer shots from across Gastineau Channel to the west slope of Mount Roberts this morning to control avalanches.

Lobbyist testifies about redistricting plan

ANCHORAGE - A lobbyist for a group that successfully promoted a new state redistricting map testified this week that she sought support from the Knowles administration, but was disappointed by the response.

Myra Munson, a Juneau lawyer and lobbyist for Alaskans For Fair Redistricting, was asked who she talked with about the plan. Those people included Attorney General Bruce Botelho and Jim Ayers, Democrat Gov. Tony Knowles' former chief of staff, she said. Munson hoped the governor would be more involved and help raise money.

"I learned very quickly the governor would not take part," she said.

The plan, which is facing nine challenges in Superior Court in Anchorage, has been called blatantly partisan by Republicans because it pits 20 incumbent Republicans against each other in the 2002 election.

Munson said districts were not drawn to avoid or favor incumbent pairings. "I have never known how many pairings there are," she said.

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