The biggest item of discussion during Thursday night's borough assembly meeting was an item that received only one line on the agenda.
Two hours before the regular meeting convened, the Alaska Public Offices Commission released a staff report clearing assemblyman Mel Stephens of a complaint filed against him by borough Mayor Jerome Selby.
The complaint alleged Stephens, an attorney, failed to follow financial disclosure rules when accepting payment for a case in which he represented a client fighting the Kodiak Island Borough in court.
"(Stevens) could not have disclosed the income ... because he received the income on April 3, 2012, which is outside the 2011 and 2012 report year disclosure requirements," the report reads.
The report stops short of a complete vindication of Stevens. In a separate complaint, Selby alleged a conflict of interest for Stephens, who Selby wrote was representing his client at the same time he was serving as an assemblyman.
The staff report stated that considering such a conflict was beyond APOC's authority. A formal judgment on the complaint will take place during APOC's April 1 meeting in Juneau.
On Thursday night, Stephens declaimed Selby's complaint. "That was not a means of getting additional information; that was a sworn complaint that I had committed a crime, a misdemeanor," he said. "I want to make it very clear that this was not, oh, this is just a minor thing. ... This was malicious, and it was an accusation of a crime."
Following the meeting, Selby responded to Stephens' comments by saying the complaint was warranted by Stephens' refusal to answer questions posed by borough attorney Cheryl Brooking.
Documents provided by APOC show lengthy email correspondence between Stephens and Brooking, in which Stephens explains that he will withdraw from one case against the borough and is wrapping up another. In a January 2012 email, Brooking expresses surprise that Stephens has filed a billing motion in regards to a case against the borough after his October 2011 election to the assembly. "Please confirm that you will withdraw the filings you submitted to the court on Friday and withdraw as ... legal counsel. Otherwise, as Borough Attorney, I have an obligation to take further action," she wrote.
Selby said Stephens failed to reply to Brookings' emails soon after, and Brookings suggested the APOC complaint as a way to make more information public.
"We need to operate out in the open, with full disclosure," he said.
Selby said he agrees Stephens has a right to bill for his work -- "If you're just filing to collect a fee that should have been paid two years ago ... I don't think anybody would have a problem with that," he said -- but thinks APOC's staff has interpreted state regulations incorrectly in regards to reporting requirements.
Selby said Stephens should have reported his fee for the time period he earned it, not when he collected it. "When I accrue a fee, whether or I collect it or not, that's a reportable fee," Selby said.
During Thursday night's meeting, the assembly voted 4-3 against allotting time for Stephens to comment on the APOC decision. Assembly members Stephens, Louise Stutes and Aaron Griffin voted for the motion, while David Kaplan, Carol Austerman, Chris Lynch and Tuck Bonney were against it.
Stutes said after the meeting that she thinks the complaint and the assembly's unwillingness to discuss it is "outrageous" and that Stephens is the victim of a loose-cannon borough attorney.
"Our borough attorney is forgetting the fact that she works for the assembly," Stutes said. "The assembly is not getting information, and that firm is making a lot of money."
In other business, the assembly:
*named Jessica Wolfe the borough employee of the year for 2012;
*named an Old Harbor school student the student of the month;
*declared March 2013 women's history month;
*appointed Frank Peterson Jr. to the planning and zoning commission;
*appointed Scott Griffin to the Womens Bay service area board;
*appointed Ed Mahoney to the board of equalization;
*approved a resolution supporting the renaming of Kodiak State Airport in honor of Benny Benson;
*appointed assessor Bill Roberts to stand in during any absence of borough manager Bud Cassidy;
*rezoned the borough landfill to an industrial zone;
*approved a federal capital improvement "wish list";
*declared a vacant seat on the parks and recreation committee;
*approved $1,500 in funding for the Kodiak Maritime Museum's cellphone tour;
*and directed the borough finance manager to prepare the annual foreclosure roll.
The borough assembly next meets March 14 for a regular work session. Its next regular meeting is March 21.
Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org.