ANCHORAGE - State-owned dairy company Matanuska Maid denied Gov. Sarah Palin access to its Anchorage facility Wednesday, citing Homeland Security regulations.
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A Palin spokeswoman, however, said she suspected the move was connected to a creamery board meeting earlier in the day at which members declined to heed to Palin's request that the company stay open beyond its scheduled final day, July 7.
"She was not allowed to access the facility as she wanted to," Meghan Stapleton said. "We tried many different approaches, but no."
Matanuska Maid President Joseph VanTreeck could not be reached for comment, but his wife Mary, reached at their home, said he was simply held up at the board meeting and was unable to meet the governor, who had given the company little advance notice of her visit.
She said only about five people at the Anchorage facility - including VanTreeck - are authorized to give tours because of Homeland Security measures limiting access to food-processing facilities. None of the others was there at the time, she said.
"There was no appointment made," she said. "In the end it looks like she was denied access when she really wasn't."
John Madden, Alaska's director of Homeland Security, said there are no regulations preventing the chief executive of a state from inspecting such production facilities.
"Nothing is sensitive about the operation of this dairy plant," Madden said. "I'm sure the governor is well trusted to protect that operation."
Madden said the governor has the appropriate national security clearance to access any public site in the state, although she would need additional permission for some military sites.
"Her security clearance is of the highest standing in the nation," Madden said. "Any entity that has questions about whether access should be denied should first seek the advice of the people who set the regulations."
McHugh Pierre, spokesman for the Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs, said the dairy is state-owned and as the state's chief executive, Palin should be entitled to unrestricted access to all state property.
"It's not about making an exception, it's about her rights as governor," he said.
Earlier Wednesday, the creamery board let pleas by Palin to keep the dairy open go unheeded despite her offer of a $600,000 state-funded bailout. The company has lost more than $700,000 in the past several years.
The State Creamery Board decided last week to close the 71-year-old dairy, citing escalating shipping and milk prices.
The company suffered more than $700,000 in losses during the past two years, to the point that even a $600,000 state grant couldn't turn the company around, board chairman Mac Carter said.
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