Parsons' ties in question

Mayoral candidate on cruise ship board

Posted: Friday, September 29, 2000

Mayoral candidate Jamie Parsons serves as an advisor to Holland America Line, Alaska Airlines and Key Bank - roles he says he never considered to be conflicts of interest as a candidate or elected official.

"I don't look at it as a conflict," Parsons, a former mayor seeking to reclaim the job, said Thursday in interviews between campaign appearances. "I look at it as an opportunity to provide input."

During the interviews, however, he said he will resign all three positions if elected mayor.

Parsons said most voters probably are unaware of his advisory roles, which he described as unpaid except for $100 per quarterly meeting he receives from Key Bank.

Parsons said he accepted an offer to serve on the Holland America advisory board in late 1994 after he completed his mayoral term.

"I took Fran Ulmer's slot when she was seeking the lieutenant governor position," he said.

Reached in Anchorage on Thursday, Ulmer confirmed her decision to resign from various advisory boards "because of potential appearance (of conflict of interest) problems."

"It seemed too complicated to stay on boards like that," said Ulmer, a former Juneau legislator and mayor.

Although it provides no pay, Holland America offers its advisors a free cruise, Parsons said.

"They encourage you to take a cruise," he said. "We've been so busy we haven't had time or made the time to take a cruise. So Al Parrish (vice president for government and community

relations) said, 'We'll try to make it easier for you folks. You can start in Skagway and go down to Vancouver.' "

The trip by advisory board members lasted three days, Parsons said.

Parsons and a patron of a photo exhibit displayed at Nugget Mall last year disagreed Thursday whether Parsons intervened on behalf of Holland America to try to block the show, which focused on the impacts of tourism in Juneau.

Frederick Hoskinson, owner of Snowfree Video and a former candidate for Juneau Assembly and School Board, said he heard months later that Parsons and Kirby Day, a representative of Princess Tours, tried to prevent the photo exhibit from appearing at the mall.

"Expecting to learn I'd been misinformed, I called Jamie and asked if he tried to prevent the photo show," Hoskinson said in a letter to and telephone interview with the Empire.

"I was just trying to make sure it was something positive," he said Parsons told him.

"I said, 'I'll take that as yes, you pressured the mall,' " Hoskinson said of the continuing conversation.

"Well you know I'm now representing Holland America," he said, quoting Parsons.

"Believe me, I didn't know," Hoskinson said.

In Thursday's interviews with the Empire, Parsons confirmed his concern about the photo exhibit and his intervention. But he strongly denied he was acting on behalf of Holland America or that he ever told Hoskinson he was.

"I wanted to make sure in my own mind it was positive, so I went out and asked Sandy (Beeson), the Nugget Mall manager, if there were any parameters regarding what was going to be shown. She assured me it was going to be tasteful and it was," Parsons said.

"I don't carry their (Holland America's) label or anything at all any time other than when I've got to go to a meeting (of the advisory board).

"I think they asked me to serve out of respect for me and the work I've done and I know who needs funding the most and I have my ear close to the ground, but it isn't going to happen any more."

Day, of Princess Tours, confirmed he contacted Beeson to express his concern about the exhibit. He said he did not discuss it with Parsons and was unaware of Parsons' inquiry to Beeson.

Beeson said today that when Parsons expressed his concern, he did so as an individual and did not mention Holland America or any other cruise line.

Parsons had been on the community advisory board for five years when Holland America, through Parrish, said last fall it had decided to reassess its funding of nonprofit groups in Juneau. The move was perceived as a response to passage of the cruise ship passenger head tax.

"I couldn't believe that Al Parrish would come out and say something like that," Parsons said Thursday. "I thought it was just awful. ... I was embarrassed."

Asked if he conveyed his feelings to Parrish, Parsons replied: "I didn't. I didn't call and say, 'You're off the mark.' We'd been telling them their attitude needs to change a little bit, but we can't dictate what they do."

Parsons emphasized he does not represent Holland America and his involvement with its advisory board was an effort to help the company assign its charitable contributions appropriately.

"After our conversation a few minutes ago, I have decided to inform these companies that I'm resigning effective Oct. 4 if I'm elected mayor," Parsons said in an e-mail to the Empire. "(Mayoral candidate) Sally (Smith) and I both serve on the UAS campus council. I don't plan to resign from that organization."

In an interview during which Parsons was not mentioned, Smith said she would resign directorships, memberships and boards to avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts but said she had identified no such activities. Smith said she is on the board of directors for Capital Community Broadcasting Inc., an affiliation she described as "benign"; is a member of Friends of the Alaska State Museum; and serves on the UAS campus council.

Candidate Patty Zimmerman said she is "not on any boards that would pose a conflict of interest. My appointment to the Juneau Energy Advisory Committee probably would be filled by someone else if I were mayor."

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