Anchorage mayor vetoes on-duty employee charity

Posted: Thursday, July 22, 2010

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed an ordinance that would have allowed firefighters to continue their annual "fill the boot" campaign to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Sullivan said Tuesday the ordinance would put the city in the position of supporting one charity over another and could lead to nonprofits lobbying the mayor or assembly.

Sullivan says the best policy is to prohibit the on-duty use of city employees and equipment for private purposes.

The assembly approved the ordinance last week on a 6-4 vote. Some members told The Anchorage Daily News they are considering an override, which would need the votes of eight members.

The ordinance said that use of city resources and employee fundraising is not prohibited by the city ethics law if the activity is authorized by the assembly or mayor in writing.

That raises question about fairness, Sullivan said.

"As public officials we have an obligation to ensure that taxpayer dollars are only used for legitimate government purposes," Sullivan said.

The use of city resources for events such as parades and festivals would still be allowed in most circumstances, he said.

Assembly chairman Dick Traini said he supports a veto override. "The public needs to have this, the kids who suffer from muscular dystrophy need this," he said.

For decades, fill-the-boot fundraisers have taken place in Anchorage on the Friday afternoon before Labor Day. Firefighters on street corners asked people to drop money in a fireman's boot for the MDA.

The fundraiser brings in about $115,000, about one-seventh of the yearly budget for MDA of Alaska. Executive Director Sabrina Hoppes said the fundraiser will go on with volunteer, off-duty firefighters if necessary.

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