Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, February 19, 2004

Shareholders want bigger dividends

ANCHORAGE - Arctic Slope Regional Corp. shareholders are calling for larger dividends and more accountability from management.

Hundreds of shareholders have signed a petition seeking a special meeting of the Barrow-based regional Native corporation, one of Alaska's wealthiest and most influential companies.

They want top managers and directors to explain how the company is using its roughly $1 billion in annual revenue. They also want to know why more profits aren't earmarked for shareholders as dividends, which last year averaged $500 per person, according to petition shareholders.

Unlike other Native corporations rocked by periodic shareholder revolts and demands for payouts, Arctic Slope has enjoyed relative calm and stability over the decades. But some shareholders say frustration has been mounting behind the scenes, and organizers describe support for the petition as strong.

"The management are benefiting themselves before they benefit the shareholders. This needs to stop," said David Maasak Leavitt Jr., one of three main petition organizers. "They have forgotten who they work for."

Jacob Adams, president and chief executive, defended his company's dividend policies.

"Given the nature of the corporation and the way we add on these new shareholders each year, and given the economic conditions, I think we're being fair," Adams told the Anchorage Daily News.

Sitka man drowns in boating accident

SITKA - A Sitka man drowned in a recreational boating accident just outside the town's harbor, authorities said.

Ronald Richter's body was spotted about 10:45 p.m. Monday by the crew of a U.S. Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter.

Richter's 26-foot boat crashed into the breakwater outside Thomsen Harbor and was heavily damaged, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.

Richter was boating alone when the accident occurred. His body was found about a quarter mile from the boat.

Richter's dog, a terrier, also was missing, said Dave Miller, chief of the Sitka Fire Department.

Government watchdog opens office in Alaska

ANCHORAGE - The government watchdog group Common Cause is opening an office in Alaska, the group said Wednesday.

Common Cause President Chellie Pingree will travel to Alaska this weekend and will visit Anchorage and Juneau.

Common Cause in Alaska will focus on a variety of issues, including keeping public meetings open, reforming campaign finance laws and exposing conflicts of interest and lobbying expenses.

"By working with its citizen activist members, Alaska Common Cause will carry on the fight to ensure transparency, promote citizen involvement in government and work for positive change in the state legislature," Pingree said.

Common Cause was founded in 1970 and has over 200,000 members. The Alaska office is the watchdog group's 37th state office nationwide. It already has over 500 members, the organization said.

Suspected grenade actually a souvenir

SEATTLE - Investigators determined Wednesday that a grenade found in an American woman's vehicle when she crossed into Canada near Blaine was a souvenir filled with sand.

"When we do come across these, we just don't know, so we have to treat them as live grenades," said Henry Lescault, who supervises the arson explosives group in the Seattle office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Lescault's office was in contact with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police explosives disposal unit that tested the device on Wednesday.

Canadian customs officials found the grenade in the glove compartment of a 28-year-old woman's Ford Explorer as she crossed the border on Monday.

The discovery led to an hourlong shutdown of the border, the busiest northern crossing west of Detroit. Authorities questioned the woman, the wife of a Fort Lewis soldier, for a few hours.

RCMP officials said the woman appeared to be "quite traumatized" by the incident, seemingly unaware there was a grenade in the glove compartment.

"We come across these paperweights all the time," Lescault said, noting he has a World War II pineapple grenade souvenir in his office desk.

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