Alaska Digest

Wire reports

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2005

State is silent on Irwin's job status

JUNEAU - State Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin said he still has his job despite writing a memo criticizing state concessions in Gov. Frank Murkowski's negotiations over a natural gas pipeline.

But Irwin, who was not at work Monday or Tuesday, would not say whether he is suspended.

"It's really not appropriate for me to be talking about it," he said. "It needs to come from the governor's office."

The governor's office has withheld comment on Irwin, who was a major player on the state's negotiating team for a gas pipeline.

Murkowski released Irwin's gas line memo on Friday after announcing he had struck a deal with ConocoPhillips over state taxes and royalties if a proposed natural gas pipeline is built from the North Slope to the Lower 48.

The memo asked whether staff members were being asked by the Murkowski administration to break the law by continuing to negotiate with oil companies over a contract that might not be in the state's best financial interests.

Irwin said Tuesday the memo was supposed to be confidential.

"That memo was attorney-client privilege. I am amazed, surprised that it ever got put out," Irwin said.

Unalaska officials head to Iceland

UNALASKA - Six Unalaska city officials will leave Thursday on a 10-day trip to Iceland. The trip is at the invitation of a company that wants to sell the city geothermal energy.

City Manager Chris Hladick said Iceland America Energy, a subsidiary of Enex, has acquired geothermal rights on the slopes of Makushin Volcano, across a bay 14 miles from the Aleutian Islands' town.

"The decision makers will see firsthand what they're talking about," Hladick said.

The city has budgeted $25,000 for the trip for Hladick, Mayor Shirley Marquardt, four city council members, and a consultant.

Also making the trip are representatives of two Unalaska Native organizations, the Ounalashka Corp. and the Qawalangin Tribe. Those groups are paying for their part of the trip.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is sending a member of her staff.

The North Atlantic island nation is powered and heated by geothermal energy. Hladick said volcanic hot water could be used to heat Unalaska homes and businesses.

Unalaska is planning to expand city-owned electric generating facilities and has already ordered new diesel engines. Hladick said privately generated geothermal power could reduce the money the city would spend on power plant expansion.

Barrow man remains missing in Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS - A Barrow man who walked away from a Fairbanks assisted-living home three weeks ago remains missing.

Rex Rexford, 42, arrived in Fairbanks in June for medical treatment for a brain injury he suffered 23 years ago, according to his mother, Rosabelle Rexford of Barrow.

He moved into the Paul Williams House on 23rd Avenue and sought treatment at the Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center, according to Fairbanks police.

Rexford was last seen near Fairbanks Memorial Hospital the night of Oct. 3 and was reported missing the next day, said Detective Dave Elzey. He is 5 feet 9 inches tall, 160 pounds, with black hair and dark brown eyes. He walks with a limp and is not believed to be carrying money.

"I keep praying and asking God to give me the strength and courage to find him," said Miranda Rexford-Brown of Barrow, an older sister has been searching in Fairbanks since Oct. 10. She will return to Barrow on Thursday.

Rexford-Brown has posted more than 400 fliers around Fairbanks. The flyers feature a picture of a smiling Rexford wearing a coat and a knit cap.

Ex-finance officer accused of embezzling

ANCHORAGE - The former financial officer for the Southcentral Foundation has been charged with embezzling more than $650,000 in federal funds.

Federal prosecutors charged Tiffany Scott with one count of theft of federal funds, one count of credit card fraud and one count of filing a false tax return.

Scott worked as a finance officer at Southcentral from Sept. 1, 1997, through April 15, 2003. She was fired after an internal audit turned up major accounting irregularities, Southcentral officials have said.

Scott will likely be appointed a public defender, said Richard Curtner, an attorney with the Federal Defender's Office.

The charges in the case are similar to allegations in a civil suit Southcentral Foundation filed against Scott that seeks the recovery of more than $600,000. Scott's civil attorney, Greg Oczkus, has denied the allegations on her behalf.

In the civil case, scheduled to go to trial next year, Anchorage attorney Robert Bundy said Scott used Southcentral credit cards to pay for personal expenses. She also took cash advances, falsified accounting records and prepared phony reconciliation statements, according to the lawsuit.

Southcentral's president, Katherine Gottlieb, said Scott repaid $40,000.

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