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Mediator may call on the law

Warning comes as open meetings debated in flight-noise dispute

Posted: Thursday, December 07, 2000

A Seattle mediator will handle any disruption of Juneau's flight-noise mediation meetings on federal property by calling out Forest Service law enforcement, according to an affidavit she filed in Juneau Superior Court on Wednesday.

The warning was the latest salvo in a continuing exchange between citizens who want to tape-record mediation sessions and Triangle Associates consultant Lois Schwennesen, along with mediation panel members who don't want sessions tape-recorded.

Schwennesen filed the affidavit in response to a request for a restraining order by Juneau resident Hugh Malone. Malone asked Judge Larry Weeks that Schwennesen's prohibition on tape-recording of a planned Wednesday mediation meeting at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center be disallowed. The point became moot when Schwennesen canceled the meeting.

Schwennesen also shut down an Oct. 31 meeting when Malone

attempted to tape-record. At a Nov. 6 session, she asked City Manager Dave Palmer to handle another would-be taper, Donn Liston, whereupon Palmer called city police and Liston left the premises.

"The design team, by consensus, agreed to a ground rule prohibiting tape recording during their work sessions," Schwennesen said in her deposition. "The consensus was founded on a concern that taping would be antithetical to the purpose of the mediation process: avoiding litigation."

There have been no disruptions, Malone said this morning, except those brought about "because the panel or Triangle halted the proceedings because people were trying to keep a record of what was going on."

Juneau District Ranger Pete Griffin a member of the mediation team representing the interests of the U.S. Forest Service said this morning in response to a question about the possible use of Forest Service law enforcement agents: "This is the first I've heard about it." And any such request would have to go through him, he said.

Griffin said he doubted calling out Forest Service police would be necessary. "If I have one shortcoming, it's being optimistic even in the face of facts to the contrary," he said.

Malone's motion also asked the court for a preliminary injunction to require that the city be stopped from preventing the recording of the meetings and, further, that the city be made to adhere to the state's Open Meetings Act.

In his deposition opposing issuance of the restraining order, City Attorney John Corso said the mediation panel is not an agency or function of the city and that, even if it were, it is not a "governmental body" and is therefore not subject to the Open Meetings Act. Further, he said, if the panel were subject to the Open Meetings Act, it wouldn't be obliged to allow tape recording.

"The city's position with respect to the prohibition (of tape recording) is that we don't have one," Corso said this morning. "The prohibition has been decided by the (mediation) design team."

The city's actual interest, he said, is in avoiding the limitation of the city's own right to preclude tape recording of meetings.

City police will respond to disruptions of future mediation sessions, whether they be attempted tape-recordings or other actions, Corso said. They could also be called to respond to meeting disruptions on federal property.

Bringing up federal enforcement "is meant to underline that this is a federal process and that the municipal government doesn't have authority for the conduct of the meeting," Malone said.

Asked whether he would try to record future proceedings, Malone said he would.

Mediation panel members represent a number of constituencies, including conservation, fixed-wing aircraft operators, helicopter operators, city business interests, two citizens' groups, the cruise lines, the city and the U.S. Forest Service.

In a release this morning, Triangle advised the next meeting on flightseeing noise would be at 9 a.m. Dec. 13 and 14 at Guesthouse International in Juneau.

Triangle Associates staff did not return calls requesting information.

Fernand Chandonnet can be reached at fchandonnet@juneau-empire.com.



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