Angoon mayor resigns

Jack steps down after criticism over city's financial woes

Posted: Sunday, September 09, 2007

After months of community financial turmoil and consistent requests for Angoon Mayor Walter Jack to step down, he offered his resignation.

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Jack's resignation becomes effective Sept. 17.

"Mayor Jack had nothing left to offer, there was no other alternative," Lillian Woodbury, Angoon city council member, said.

She said Jack personally delivered a resignation letter to her Thursday and that it offered no explanation of why he resigned.

Phones went unanswered at Angoon City Hall on Friday, and Jack refused to answer calls to his house Saturday or return a phone message.

Council member Richard George said that the council would meet once more before Jack's last day. He expects that one member of the city council will step up to replace Jack during the meeting.

"I have no indication who it will be," George said.

The traditional Native island village began asking Jack to step aside after the city failed to pay its water bill for months, Woodbury said.

In June, the Inside Passage Electric Cooperative cut the city's power supply when a bill of $17,000 was months overdue. Angoon lost its water treatment capability for several days before the water was restored.

In July, Angoon's Public Safety Officer Charlie Hartzell threatened to leave because the city, under Jack's leadership, had failed on multiple occasions to pay his rent and provide needed resources as required by contract. Hartzell decided to stay after the city made amends.

John Howard was an Angoon city employee for over a decade. He confirmed the city has had trouble paying its employees since at least February when he said Jack and the city clerk told him there was no money to pay his wages.

Howard, who worked in the road and cable departments of the city, just stopped going to work after that.

Howard said he knew of five others who went unpaid.

Jo Grove, a state grants supervisor, said that Angoon had no budget and was uninsured.

Grove said that hundreds of thousands of dollars of grants to Angoon were frozen last spring after the city violated the terms of the grant agreements.

Grove said that "concerned citizens" talked with her during a visit to the village earlier this summer and the state was checking into Angoon's grants accounting. She said that the city's failed financial reporting process had recently become better.

State Rural Utilities Business Advisor Lawrence Blood said that Angoon's financial troubles result from too few people doing the work that most cities have a full staff to do.

"Like a lot of rural communities, they need assistance," Blood said.

Angoon has a population of about 400.

As Angoon's financial trouble began to heat up during the last legislative session, several state grants bound for the city to pay for renovation projects were re-appropriated by Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon.

Raynel Jack said the money was to be transferred to the Angoon Community Association, but as of August she said the money had not arrived.

With all the city's trouble, Woodbury said the last few council meetings have been heated.

"A lot was said," Woodbury said. "People feel like the community is dying."

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com



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