Surprisingly, Roads and Highways Deputy Commissioner John MacKinnon's July 19 response to Jane Eidler's letter has not raised any eyebrows. Being a large shareholder and merely resigning a position as an officer and director of Hyak Mining Co. isn't the same as divesting his personal and family interest in that company.
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The Juneau access road is probably the single most important highway project for the state of Alaska. To have a commissioner, deputy or otherwise, who would in his own words, have to "remove myself from any participation," and whenever a "meeting turned from informational in nature to one involving discussions and decisions," he would have to "state (his) potential conflict and (leave) the room," is ridiculous. Those "discussions and decisions" are the very job description of a commissioner of any stripe. So if he can't perform, why is he continuing to hold the job?
Especially, with a project that has been so contentious, it is important to have a public servant who can participate fully without the whiff of a conflict of interest. I agree with Mr. MacKinnon about Juneau and Alaska being "small," but we should do a reality check with his statement that, accordingly, "many conflicts are unavoidable." Aside from being a broadly self-serving statement, it is merely a half-truth. We are bigger than that, and such conflicts can be completely avoided.