Native group files suit against lawmaker

Corporation says Ramras limited speech about mine

Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2007

FAIRBANKS - A Native corporation representing five Southwest Alaska villages is suing state Rep. Jay Ramras, saying the lawmaker was limiting free speech on the Pebble mine project and related legislation.

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The lawsuit, which also names the Alaska attorney general and the state Department of Public Safety, comes after Ramras claimed in a letter that the company behind the Pebble Mine project is handing out cash to get political support from leaders in the region. The Alaska Peninsula Corp. filed the lawsuit hoping to block Alaska State Troopers from attending legislative hearings in three Bristol Bay communities this week on a mine-related bill.

The bill, co-sponsored by Ramras, would raise hurdles for mine developer Northern Dynasty Mines Inc. by making it illegal to disturb certain salmon streams in the region.

Samuel Fortier, an attorney representing the corporation, said there was concern that having uniformed troopers at the hearings would "chill people's free speech rights."

Ramras, R-Fairbanks, wrote a letter earlier this month asking Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg and federal prosecutors to send investigators to the hearings to investigate claims that Northern Dynasty was inappropriately trying to win favor for its project.

Northern Dynasty said the allegations are false.

Colberg responded to Ramras last week, saying the allegations, if true, are serious, and Alaska State Troopers might be asked to investigate. The possibility troopers at the hearing prompted the plaintiff's request for a restraining order, which was denied Monday in Superior Court in Dillingham.

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