Northwest Digest

Posted: Thursday, November 11, 2004

Democrats call for Renkes' dismissal

ANCHORAGE - State Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, has called on Gov. Frank Murkowski to fire Attorney General Gregg Renkes because of Renkes' ties to a company that stands to benefit in a coal deal between Alaska and Taiwan.

French, speaking for the minority leadership, said alternatively, Murkowski should demand Renkes' resignation because of the attorney general's "deep and profound conflict of interest."

Renkes' spokesman, Mark Morones, said the attorney general seemed "a little incredulous" at calls for his resignation and has no plans to step down.

Renkes owned stock in KFx Inc., the Denver company that wants to convert Alaska's low-grade Beluga coal into a high-energy fuel. He has previously worked for the company as a paid consultant and a technical adviser.

Renkes brought KFx to the attention of state trade officials, and he reviewed an agreement the state signed with Taiwan on Sept. 16 to promote the sale of Beluga coal processed with KFx technology.

Morones said Renkes sold the stock revealed, donated the profits to charity and set up a blind trust for his investments.

In calling for Renkes' dismissal, French said his dealings with KFx inc. made Renkes unfit to serve as Alaska's top legal official.

Two men face charges in wolf kill program

ANCHORAGE - Two men approved to participate in a state-sponsored program to kill wolves near McGrath are facing criminal charges, including shooting the animals from their planes outside the prescribed area.

Court papers show that David Haeg, 38, of Soldotna, and Tony Zellers, 41, of Eagle River, each face five counts of shooting wolves from a plane, two counts of unlawful possession of game, and one count of lying about where they shot the wolves.

Haeg, owner and operator of Trophy Lake Lodge, also is charged with two counts of trapping in closed season and one count of failure to salvage game. Each charge is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Alaska State Troopers said Haeg and Zellers last March applied for and were granted a state permit allowing them to kill wolves in an area near McGrath.

The predator-control program approved by the Alaska Board of Game in 2003 was designed to eliminate wolves in a 3,300-square-mile area surrounding McGrath to help the moose population increase.

Discrimination suit filed against Alyeska

ANCHORAGE - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Alyeska Pipeline Services Co., claiming minority employees were passed over for promotions within the company in 2002.

The lawsuit, which represents one side of a legal argument, alleges that Hispanic, Native and black employees in the contracts department at the company's Anchorage headquarters were not promoted to jobs where they would work on procurement strategy because of their race or national origin.

The lawsuit asks the court to order Alyeska to give the employees back pay with interest, as well as punitive damages.

Alyeska, owned by five oil companies, runs the 800-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline and Valdez tanker port and employs 858 people.

Only one employee, a Hispanic commercial auditor named Anthony Navarro, is named in the complaint, but Equal Employment Commission attorneys claim the company also discriminated against others.

Navarro said he first complained about the alleged discrimination nine months ago to the Anchorage-based Joint Pipeline Office, a group of government regulators that oversee the pipeline.

Students accused in death of teacher's dog

ANCHORAGE - Five students have been linked to the stabbing death of a teacher's sled dog in Teller, a village on the Seward Peninsula.

Charges of cruelty to animals, criminal trespass, criminal mischief and harassment against the three girls and two boys between the ages of 13 and 15 have been forwarded to juvenile authorities for possible prosecution, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said the two boys stabbed the dog with knives while one of the girls held the dog's head and comforted it.

The other two girls were present but did not participate in the stabbing, he said.

"From what we can tell this was school-related, although not related to any particular incident," Wilkinson said.

The dog, Willow, was a part of Eleanor Wirts' mushing team. Wirts, 40, teaches middle- and high-school science in the village of 250.

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