Yakutat opts against hiring ex-lawmaker

Posted: Saturday, June 26, 2010

By KEN LEWIS

JUNEAU EMPIRE

Concerned about scandal and divisiveness, Yakutat Assembly members changed their minds - several times - and finally refused to hire as borough manager Scott Ogan, a former Republican senator who left office in 2004 amid accusations of corruption.

After much debate in the community over an earlier decision to hire him, the negative vote passed 4-1 on Thursday. Yakutat Mayor Dave Stone had vetoed an earlier decision to hire Ogan, only to see it overturned by the Assembly.

The latest and final turn left the former Palmer legislator angry. He accused Stone of undermining him.

"All I can say is the mayor - I've learned you can't trust the mayor," Ogan told the Empire by telephone. "He gave his word on the record that he would work with me."

Stone said he lost trust in Ogan in 2004, and that the accusation of corruption "put a dark cloud over him."

"From day one, when I first saw the application, I did not want him here in Yakutat," Stone said in a phone interview.

Assembly member Nate Endicott described a flip-flopping series of motions at Thursday's meeting, and he relayed by phone what Assembly members said.

"A couple members of the Assembly felt that although they believed he would do a good job as borough manager, the controversy of it was too much for the community," Endicott said.

Earlier this month, the Assembly had decided to hire Ogan despite Stone's concerns.

The first motion at hand Thursday was to approve Ogan's contract, but it failed. Then a motion was made to "not hire" Ogan, and that one failed too, Endicott said. The Assembly kept splitting votes 3-2, missing the fourth vote needed to pass, Endicott said.

At the end of the meeting, a motion was made by Assembly member Rodney Anderson to "not enter negotiations" with Ogan, and that passed 4-1. Endicott was the only member opposed.

Endicott said he sided with Ogan because he researched Ogan's background, talked to his references and learned they were confident in his abilities.

"Even though it was controversial, I feel he would have done an excellent job as borough manager," Endicott said. "I thought he had the skills and ability to help the town move in a new direction and move forward."

Ogan, a resource manager for the Department of Natural Resources, will keep his job in Anchorage. He had resigned his post as senator in 2004 while facing an effort to recall him. Critics said he promoted legislation that would have benefited a company that he worked for as a consultant.

Ogan denied the accusations, saying he resigned because of health problems. He indicated he was no longer interested in working for Yakutat.

"I don't want to work in a position where I can't trust the word of the top official," Ogan said.

• Contact Ken Lewis at 523-2263 or ken.lewis@juneauempire.com.



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