Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, May 06, 2005

Marquez confirmed as attorney general

JUNEAU - The Legislature on Thursday confirmed David Marquez as Alaska's attorney general.

Marquez, a former oil industry lawyer, has worked for the Department of Law since 2003. He was a deputy attorney general for the department's civil division and chief assistant attorney general for its legislative and regulations section.

Marquez, 59, was appointed by Gov. Frank Murkowski on March 31 to replace Gregg Renkes, who resigned in February amid conflict-of-interest allegations. Renkes held more than $100,000 of stock in KFx. Inc., a company that would have benefited from a deal Renkes was promoting between Alaska and Taiwan.

The Legislature also confirmed Kurt Fredriksson as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation and McKie Campbell as commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. An additional 68 nominations to various boards and commissions were confirmed during the joint meeting of the House and Senate.

Carl Morgan, Jr., of Aniak, Ron Somerville of Juneau and Ted Spraker of Soldotna were appointed to the Board of Game. Rupert Andrews of Juneau, John Jensen of Petersburg and Melvan Morris, Jr., of Kodiak were appointed to the Board of Fisheries.

Senate OKs caps on public interest suits

JUNEAU - The state Senate approved a bill Thursday that would limit the public's ability to recover legal costs from the state and cities in lawsuits involving issues of public interest.

Alaska is the only state with the so-called public interest litigant law, which says complainants who bring lawsuits against the state or cities on matters of public interest can have their legal fees reimbursed.

The lawsuits cannot be used to benefit an individual financially.

Lawmakers have argued that the law has been used to stop or delay development projects and in 2003 the Legislature prohibited the "loser pays" provision. A year later, the Native Village of Nunapitchuk, several environmental groups and the Republican Moderate Party sued the state for ending the public interest lawsuits.

A Juneau Superior Court judge declared the law unconstitutional and said the bill did not get the two-thirds majority vote needed to change rules governing the courts.

The bill passed Thursday in the Senate would cap the reimbursement of legal fees at 30 percent for cases that go to trial and at 20 percent for those that do not.

Superintendent, board president resign

DILLINGHAM - The superintendent of the Dillingham School District and the school board president have both resigned.

School superintendent Darroll Hargraves and school board president Judi Nelson resigned Tuesday in a conflict over board involvement in school district management, according to KDLG radio in Dillingham.

Tuesday's meeting was originally called as an executive session but Hargraves requested the session be held in public. About 30 citizens attended.

Board member Buchi Lind called the meeting over a clash Hargraves and Nelson had at the last school board meeting. Hargraves was distressed when the budget was introduced with a couple of additional items Nelson said she had put in. Nelson said she'd received permission from Hargraves to add the items.

After the meeting Nelson said she felt it was impossible to reconcile with Hargraves.

Hargraves apologized several times for his outburst at the meeting. He said the outbursts were a result of continuous complaints about Nelson directing staff in violation of state law and the board's own policies.

Hargraves arrived in the district after serving on numerous state boards as well as several governor's education task forces.

Ex-guardsman charged with embezzling

FAIRBANKS - A federal grand jury has indicted a former Alaska Air National Guard accountant on charges of embezzling and tax evasion.

Jeffrey Dey Kellogg, 39, of North Pole was indicted on 83 federal embezzlement charges and accused of stealing about $350,000 from the U.S. government.

Kellogg also faces three counts of falsifying tax returns from 1999 to 2001.

He was arraigned on Wednesday.

The indictment listed amounts stolen ranging from $1,800 to $6,700.

The embezzlement occurred between 1999 and 2002, according to Kellogg's attorney, federal public defender M.J. Haden, who argued for lenient release terms for Kellogg.

Kellogg during that period was a master sergeant in the Alaska Air National Guard, said spokeswoman Kalei Brooks.

Kellogg is not a risk to the community and his past actions prove it, Haden said.

"He was aware of the investigation since 2002 and stayed," she said. "I don't see any indication that he would flee."

Magistrate Judge Terrance Hall set bail at $10,000.

According to Kellogg's pretrial report, he was in the Air Force for 18 years and now works as a taxi driver.

Kellogg was with the 168th Air Refueling Wing in the Alaska Air National Guard from 1993 to 2003 and was issued a general discharge under other than honorable conditions in August 2003, Brooks said.

His last position was as an accounting technician, she said. Before that he worked in other accounting positions.

Governor signs bill requiring felons' DNA

JUNEAU - Gov. Frank Murkowski on Thursday signed a bill allowing corrections and parole officers to use reasonable force to collect DNA samples from felons.

Murkowski said the new law will assist dramatically in fighting crime. That bill fits with a 2003 expansion of the state's DNA database, he said, calling the technology a tremendous weapon for law enforcement.

Corrections officers now collect DNA samples from prisoners using a swab on the inside of the mouth, but have no recourse if a prisoner refuses to cooperate.

Libertarian groups have questioned what would constitute a reasonable use of force. The new law also protects the state, municipalities and officers from being sued by a prisoner who has to submit a sample against his will.

The head of the Alaska Civil Liberties Union has said the bill offers inappropriate protection to people and entities who should not be shielded.

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