How many lawsuits must the municipal clerk settle before being forced to comply with the Alaska Public Records requirements? Ms. Jones’ latest failure to follow the Alaska law that guarantees transparency in government has resulted in yet another Superior Court lawsuit, filed less than three months after settling a similar public records case (that she was guaranteed to lose).
Given the clerk’s oversite comes from the same Anchorage Assembly members who were themselves likely violating the municipal code via the wholesale redaction of hundreds of pages of emails in a much more publicized records request last year (using the grounds of a non-existent attorney-client relationship), it’s probably no surprise this behavior is tolerated.
It is a surprise, however, that at the same time the progressive Assembly was permanently sealing the subsequent executive session transcripts that would at least allow a public record of how an “anonymous local blogger” and his email communications between Assembly members could possibly be privileged, there were no plucky members of the media asking why? There has been no reporting or tangible repercussions in regards to the clerk’s actions, which have now cost the Anchorage taxpayer thousands of dollars in legal fees due to these lawsuits that were filed (and then settled), after months of delay.
In each case, the release of what should be readily available public information appear to have been obstructed because they are politically inconvenient and sensitive communications between Assembly members and the no-longer-anonymous Alaska Democrats’ communications director. Also in each case, municipal taxpayer dollars have been squandered in order to block the use of a tool meant to hold our politicians accountable.
Does democracy really die in darkness, or does it die in full daylight, but hogtied by partisan bureaucratic obstruction? Given this history, and the additional media blackout of the fact that the Assembly is paying former municipal manager Bill Falsey hundreds of dollars an hour to review their op-eds via a specially created legal fund that was sold to the public as a critical expense for a separation of powers lawsuit, it’s easy to conclude that the progressives on the Anchorage Assembly have no hesitation about spending public resources when the cause is convenient….or in the case of these public records (obstruction) settlements, inconvenient.
Russell Biggs is a physician and community activist that has lived in Alaska for 18 years.