Robber must pay back missing money
JUNEAU - A man who pleaded guilty Monday to robbing a downtown bank less than two weeks ago faces more than five years in prison and an order to repay the bank more than $2,000.
Neil Haapala, 32, is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 8 after agreeing to plead guilty to second-degree robbery. Police arrested him on Oct. 12 at the Airport Travelodge, about six hours after a man fled the First National Bank of Alaska, 238 Front St., with about $4,400. The holdup note was signed, "Neil," according to court records.
Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner said in court Monday that about $2,302 was recovered at the arrest and $2,088 was missing. A restitution order would be part of the requested sentence, he said.
The stolen money was "unfit for circulation," according to court records. It consisted of Canadian currency and worn U.S. money the bank was collecting to be destroyed by the Federal Reserve, though it retained value.
Assistant Public Defender David Seid told Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins the agreement calls for a sentence of four years to serve in prison with another four to six years suspended from the sentence. It also calls for suspended time from previous convictions - 14 months for making terroristic threats and 130 days for a reckless driving conviction in what initially was prosecuted as a drunken driving case.
Collins totaled the time at five years, eight months and 10 days.
Seid said the agreement calls for dismissal of a more serious first-degree robbery charge and a second-degree theft charge.
Police probe stolen corporation records
FAIRBANKS - The theft of computer records from the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp. has prompted a police investigation.
Jim Dodson, the corporation's interim president, discovered the theft when one set of records was distributed earlier this month to the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly by Donna Gilbert, a former Fairbanks City Council member. Gilbert, a local activist, held up another set during a public comments session in the same Oct. 13 meeting.
Gilbert said in an interview she didn't realize the documents had been stolen. She would not say where she got them.
One document was a draft version of a PowerPoint presentation Dodson planned to give the borough assembly on the status of the FEDC. The second was an agreement between Dodson and the University of Alaska Fairbanks to promote nanotechnology research.
Dodson told the assembly he believed a former FEDC employee took the documents. He did not elaborate and would not say who in an interview. Dodson set up a new e-mail address and password for the computer system after discovering the theft. He said the corporation's security is being upgraded.
Tesoro Nikiski tax dispute heads to court
KENAI - Tesoro Alaska is appealing a property tax decision by the Kenai Peninsula Borough, taking its case to the Alaska Superior Court.
It's the latest move in a decade-long string of disagreements over assessments imposed on the company's Nikiski refinery and the land on which it sits.
At stake is more than $1.5 million in property taxes the borough says Tesoro owes for the refinery alone.
In August, the borough assembly - sitting as a Board of Equalization - upheld the $124 million value borough assessor Shane Horan had judged the refinery to be worth. Horan valued the land at $869,700.
During the equalization board hearing, which convened June 16, Tesoro disputed the borough's figures, which at the time included a $130 million valuation for the refinery. Horan later recommended lowering the refinery assessment to the $124 million figure.
Tesoro claimed the refinery was worth only about $60 million, and that the land should be considered of no value and subsumed into the value of the refinery. According to the borough, Tesoro offered to compromise and accept the borough's 2004 valuation of $93.4 million - despite the fact that the company had filed a yet-to-be-adjudicated superior court lawsuit in September 2004 seeking to get that figured lowered.
The equalization board stood firm, leading Tesoro to file another appeal with the Anchorage Superior Court on Sept. 1 contending the assessor's valuation was "excessive, unequal and improper" and that the equalization board had violated federal, state and municipal laws and regulations in reaching its conclusions.
Striking teachers return to work in B.C.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Students across British Columbia returned to school Monday after teachers voted to end an illegal strike that kept them out of class for two weeks.
After the B.C. Teachers Federation was fined $500,000 by the B.C. Supreme Court for going on strike illegally, teachers voted 77 percent in favor of returning to work under a deal reached through mediator Vince Ready that will see the province increase funding to deal with learning conditions, including class sizes.
The province's 38,000 teachers began the strike Oct. 7.
Federation President Jinny Sims said that by striking, teachers asserted their right to strike in the face of legislation that declared them an essential service.
"We knew we were in civil disobedience and we made some gains," she said. "We not only took our bargaining rights but we exercised them for two weeks despite all the commitments of the government that students were not going to be out of school for one day."
Sims said the union has also made class size an issue that must be dealt with.