Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, March 12, 2004

Permanent Fund director steps down

JUNEAU - The executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. announced his retirement this week, as the Legislature prepares to start considering fund-related bills Monday.

Executive Director Bob Storer said he felt it was time to take a break. He said the corporation always has ongoing projects, so there is never a good time to leave.

One of the bills the Legislature will consider is the POMV, or percent of market value plan. POMV would inflation-proof the fund and limit the annual payout to 5 percent of the total value of the fund. Fund trustees have said this will provide a stable, predictable dividend payout to state residents. The corporation has asked for state funding toward an ad campaign to push POMV.

Storer, 59, said he considered whether he should leave while the constitutional amendment dealing with POMV was being debated.

"I thought a lot about that subject and did not take that subject lightly," he said.

But he noted he plans to stay through the end of the session, at least until June 1, and longer if the corporation has not replaced him by then.

Carl Brady, chair of the corporation's board of trustees, said the board was sorry to see Storer go.

"Bob Storer's institutional knowledge of the permanent fund as well as his many years of investing experience have made him an asset to the APFC and to the board," Brady said.

Storer said he is not leaving Juneau, but that he has been asked to serve on the board of a money-management firm in southern California. He would not say which firm.

Man gets 112 years in sexual abuse case

JUNEAU - A 39-year-old Juneau man was ordered Thursday to serve 112 years in prison after agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser charge in a case alleging sexual abuse of a minor.

Russel Griffin continues to deny his guilt, his attorney, Jeffrey Sauer, told Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks. Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner told the judge that Griffin was guilty of more than the attempted second-degree sexual abuse of a minor charge.

In October, a grand jury indicted Griffin on five counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor. The complaint alleged sexual abuse of a pre-teen girl on five occasions between Aug. 26 and Oct. 6.

As charged, each offense could have carried a prison term of up to 30 years, with a usual sentence of eight years. The felony Griffin agreed to plead guilty to carries a maximum sentence of five years.

Weeks imposed four years in prison with 212 years suspended. He placed Griffin on probation for five years, beginning after his release from custody. He said Griffin will have to register as a sex offender.

He also asked for the prosecution to submit its financial restitution claim within two weeks.

Griffin declined to speak when Weeks gave him the opportunity before sentencing. Sauer said he pleaded guilty because of the prison time he would face if convicted at trial.

Gardner said the victim's mother said she did not believe her daughter could make it through the rigors of cross-examination at a trial.

Pipeline shut down due to errors, aging equipment

FAIRBANKS - The operator of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline said human error and aging electrical equipment forced an unplanned four-hour January shutdown.

Critics said the mishap is another example of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. not identifying potential problems in a timely manner.

On the morning of Jan. 25, a contract electrician working on a new fire protection system at the Valdez Marine Terminal opened the wrong breaker. That caused a loss of power for the last valve in the pipeline before crude is offloaded to tanks and tankers.

The electrical boxes were side by side and identical, said Alyeska pipeline manager Jim Johnson. The electrician had opened the correct breaker many times.

The loss of power was signaled to Alyeska's operational control center in Valdez with the message that the valve had an "invalid" status. That triggered an automatic response to shut down the pipeline at Pump Stations 10, 11, and 12, the report said.

Pump Station 12 is 65 miles north of Valdez and Pump Station 11 is 114 miles north of Valdez near Copper Center. Pump Station 10 is near Miller Creek, about 146 miles south of Fairbanks.

Altogether about 40,176 barrels of oil were rerouted. The pipeline averages 1 million barrels of oil daily.

Pilgrim family may get permit, but too late

ANCHORAGE - The National Park Service will allow a temporary access permit for a backwoods family's request to haul supplies on an old mining road to their remote cabin in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

However, the announcement comes too late to help the Pilgrim family this winter, a spokesman said. The route is impassible.

"The biggest problem we have six and a half feet of snow," Joseph Pilgrim, the family's oldest son, said Thursday.

The Park Service said it will let the Pilgrim family use a bulldozer on the road when ground is frozen, covered by snow and resistant to damage. The road leads 14 miles to McCarthy.

Joseph Pilgrim said he had not seen a proposed Park Service permit. The agency has invited the family to meet with park officials next week.

"I don't know what's going to happen, but it doesn't look very hopeful to us," he said.

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