State Briefs

Posted: Wednesday, March 06, 2002

State wants Demers to pay up

JUNEAU - The state Attorney General's Office is asking the Alaska Supreme Court to reverse a recent appellate decision that relieved the former treasurer of the Juneau Folk Festival from paying $5,000 in restitution.

James Demers was convicted of felony second-degree theft and falsifying business records in 1999 after pleading no contest to allegations he stole more than $13,000 from festival coffers.

Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins ordered six months of prison time, probation and restitution. Restitution included repayment of the stolen funds and $5,400 for the festival's costs to investigate the theft.

In February, the appellate court in part reversed Collins' order for restitution. The judges determined that Demers should pay back $400 that the festival spent for a professional accountant to look at the books, but not the $5,000 to the two volunteers who audited and reconstructed the books and proved the money was stolen.

The Attorney General's Office is asking the Supreme Court to throw out the appellate decision because it was too narrow in its interpretation of the statutes governing restitution, according to Assistant Attorney General Cynthia Cooper's petition.

An answer from the Supreme Court on whether it will hear the case is expected by the end of the month.

Panel to review naming policy

JUNEAU - The city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee will review the policy that governs how parks are named, following concerns from the Assembly.

The panel had recommended that the Assembly name the spot "Lynn Cox Auke View Park." The Assembly last week referred that name to its Human Resources Committee for more discussion. At the time, some Assembly members expressed concern about naming parks after people.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee on Tuesday recommended that the Assembly call a new park by Lena Point "Auke View Park," but the committee plans to name the park's ballfields after Lynn Cox, who was active in Juneau football, softball and Little League programs before his death several years ago.

City policy allows the Parks and Recreation Advisory committee to name a park after people. But Parks and Recreation Director Kim Kiefer said she will return the policy, which dates to 1987, to the panel for more work.

Leask named to permafund board

JUNEAU - Janie Leask, former president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, has been named to the board of trustees for the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Leask immediately begins serving as one of four public members on the board, replacing Melphine Evans, who retired late last year, according to Julie Penn, deputy press secretary for Gov. Tony Knowles, who made the appointment.

"Time after time, Janie has demonstrated a profound commitment to bringing Alaskans together, whether she's co-chairing a study of the urban-rural gap for Commonwealth North, or organizing trips to rural villages to further understanding between urban and rural Alaskans," Knowles said.

The permanent fund is governed by a six-member board responsible for managing and investing fund assets. The governor appoints four public members. By law, two members are heads of major executive branch departments, including the revenue commissioner.

Leask is manager of community relations for Alyeska Pipeline Service. She was AFN president for seven years and is former vice president of community development for the National Bank of Alaska.

In January, Leask was named co-chairwoman of the gubernatorial campaign of Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer.

Bill targets spill ruling

JUNEAU An Alaska Supreme Court ruling that requires state regulators to look harder at oil companies' spill response plans would be overturned by a bill that passed a Senate committee this week.

The Senate Resources Committee approved a bill that would allow the state Department of Environmental Conservation to continue its current rules on regulating contingency plans for oil spills.

The bill takes aim at a state Supreme Court ruling that found the state's "best available technology" requirement should be read broadly.

After the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, the Legislature required a set of performance standards and response times for the containment and cleanup of oil spills in Alaska.

The state has regulations that considered a company to be using the "best available technology" if it meets those spill response standards.

The state's high court ruled that the Legislature, when it passed the law, did not intend for regulators to rely on state spill standards as a yardstick of what is "best available technology."

"The court relied on the dictionary definition of 'best,' " said Assistant Attorney General Breck Tostevin.

The bill, sponsored by the Senate Resources Committee, would allow the department to approve technology so long as it is "proven, appropriate and reliable" to meet state standards for spill response.

Ross Coen of the Alaska Forum for Environmental Responsibility said state regulators should concentrate on how to comply with the ruling and follow the law.

"Instead this bill attempts to change the rules and undermine the Supreme Court's decision," he said.

The Senate Resources Committee approved the bill after Monday's hearing.

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