Diversion tactics: Kenai Borough Assembly calls emergency meeting to discuss releasing HR report

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The Kenai Borough Assembly on Friday afternoon called an emergency meeting for Sunday at 1 pm to discuss whether it should release a Human Resources report regarding outgoing Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce.

The Assembly has no habit of calling for emergency sessions for wildfires, pandemics, or floods. But political emergencies are different.

The Assembly has been taking intense criticism from the public for arbitrarily installing former mayor Mike Navarre into office to fill out the term of Mayor Pierce, who leaves at the end of September to focus on his campaign for governor. The meeting on Sunday appears to be a way for the Assembly to do battle with the public, and it’s also a warning to the public that the Assembly may be willing to break the laws covering confidentiality of settlements in order to maintain control.

Two settlement agreements were made between the borough and former HR directors Kim Saner and Stormy Brown, who Pierce fired in 2019. Brown claimed she was fired because of her cancer diagnosis; she is currently undergoing chemotherapy out of state. The borough, at the time, paid $150,000 to settle the Stormy Brown claim of lost wages and emotional damage. Another $117,000 was paid to Kim Saner for a separate claim.

An audio recording summarizing the mediation on May 10 was released by the borough earlier this year.

The emergency that the Assembly actually has is that last week, the majority members appointed Navarre without public process and without allowing other people to apply for the temporary position. Leaders of that efforts, Assemblymen Tyson Cox and Jesse Bjorkman, have come under fire at the same time they are both up for reelection on Oct. 4. (Don Boston is challenging Cox, and Dil Uhlin is challenging Bjorkman. Bjorkman has dual campaigns under way because he is also running for Alaska Senate.)

Bjorkman’s radio appearance on the Bob Bird Show Friday afternoon was a public relations disaster, according to several sources. Assemblyman Richard Derkevorkian, who called into the show, told Bjorkman he was not telling the truth about the timeline of events that led to Navarre’s appointment. Derkevorkian and Assemblyman Bill Elam both voted against the surprise “lay down” motion to appoint Navarre.

Now, the Assembly majority appears to be in damage control to take the focus off of the Assembly majority’s recent behavior, which may include the violation of the Alaska Open Meetings Act.

On the agenda for the meeting:

  1. Discussion Regarding Release of Internal HR Investigation Report
  2. Discussion Regarding Disclosure of Items Discussed in Executive Session on August 23, 2022.

The borough clerk has noted that a special session may be convened, which would exclude public participation.

Remote participation will be available through Zoom. Meeting ID: 884 7373 9641 Passcode: 671108. https://zoom.us/j/88473739641. To attend the Zoom meeting by telephone call toll free 1-888-788-0099 or 1-877-853-5247 and enter the Meeting ID: 884 7373 9641 Passcode: 671108.

Detailed instructions on how to attend the meeting in person, the meeting agenda and agenda items are at this link.

The Assembly clerk says those who would would like to provide public testimony at the meeting should call the Clerk’s Office to have their names added to the public speakers list: 907-714-2160.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Wow true colors keep shining .. Cox has a history of unethical behavior and President Johnson doesn’t do anything. I have pictures he took of me when I was in attendance at a Borough meeting to provide to the peninsula clarion because someone from the clarion texted him during the meeting and asked him to do that. Total conflict of interest and lack of integrity. Only a couple of the Kenai peninsula assembly members can be trusted. Definitely not for the people by the people but for themselves and their big egos.

  2. 2021 Alaska Statutes
    Title 44. State Government
    Chapter 62. Administrative Procedure Act
    Article 6. Open Meetings of Governmental Bodies.
    Sec. 44.62.312. State policy regarding meetings.
    Universal Citation: AK Stat § 44.62.312 (2021)
    (a) It is the policy of the state that

    (1) the governmental units mentioned in AS 44.62.310(a) exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business;

    (2) it is the intent of the law that actions of those units be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly;

    (3) the people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them;

    (4) the people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know;

    (5) the people’s right to remain informed shall be protected so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created;

    (6) the use of teleconferencing under this chapter is for the convenience of the parties, the public, and the governmental units conducting the meetings.

    (b) AS 44.62.310(c) and (d) shall be construed narrowly in order to effectuate the policy stated in (a) of this section and to avoid exemptions from open meeting requirements and unnecessary executive sessions.

  3. The 7 KPB Assembly members want to focus on the $267k that it cost to settle? How about the $540k Mayor Pierce saved over his predecessor EACH YEAR in just the running of the Mayor’s Office alone? No, these KPB Assembly members that voted for Navarre want to focus on Mayor Charlie Pierce’s refusal to employ substandard or problematic employees. As usual with these type employees, they scream victim. The KPB did what most businesses and government agencies do: settle for a lessor amount than an extensive court battle that almost always results in an even more expensive bill. Very interesting that the total amount of the bill for settling, was less than the borough paid for all the special assistants salaries Navarre employed. In fact according to the 2021 KPB Accounting Statement (CAFR), Mayor Navarre never operated within budget, while Mayor Pierce always did. Pierce’s own Mayoral department operated at an inflation adjusted average of 52% of the cost of Navarre’s.

    This week the 7 Assembly members moved to quickly appoint the predecessor to Mayor Pierce, a democrat politician – Mike Navarre, without vetting through the public which is highly questionable and possibly illegal. These 7 include incumbents Brent JOHNSON, Tyson COX and Jesse BJORKMAN (a self-proclaimed conservative.)

  4. Pierce talks a good game to the conservative crowd, but he’s no more conservative than Navarre. He balanced a budget on a windfall of PILT money and the windfall generated when Amazon et al had to start paying sales tax. Navarre had a hiring freeze just like Pierce. Pierce has also had the benefit of piles of federal funding due to COVID.
    At least when Navarre hired a special assistant, it wasn’t so he could be AWOL at his job (it was to lobby for billions in revenue from an LNG pipeline to Nikiski). Pierce has been absent at KPB for at least the last 6 months. He literally just created a position so they could be a stand-in for him while he was off NOT doing his job as mayor.
    The the boiler he magically fixed and saved $$ is BS. He solved an easy problem yes, but the other project was far more than the boiler replacement.

  5. Speaking of diversion tactics…this absurdist version of the story only works if you believe the obvious lie that Pierce stepped down “to focus on his gubernatorial campaign.” He stepped down because he was (is) embroiled in a massive and expensive scandal of his own doing. How a so-called reporter could be so deluded as to ignore this massive elephant in the room is beyond me, but it’s fascinating to see the lengths MRAK will go to carry water for GOP goons.

    • Your eye is not so keen Jake… its not an expensive scandal, there’s no lawsuit filed! Until it hits the courts, it is just blabber from a “poor me victim” that was posed for losing a job when a new administration came in. The ‘investigation” was conducted by some attorney’s office…. anyone can “investigate” anything and find a person credible, now it’s up to that to go to trial and find it proven by clear and convincing evidence.
      Just the mere threat of a lawsuit is making the assembly shake in their boots, why is that? Are they not schooled enough to know they’re being played by a player!

  6. Very telling that this assembly is a joke. They fumbled through everything today, it’ll be in video by tomorrow
    ‘https://kpb.legistar.com/Calendar.aspic

    Tyson Cox and Jesse Bjorkman are up for elections on the Peninsula— get out and vote! And the rest of the assembly (except the republicans) just caved in to the nonsense. Little minds. They’re done, Bjorkman is dreaming if he things he’s Senate material

    Unfortunately these clowns have a bankroll of about 35 million dollars to waste now! The people of the Borough need to be paying attention!

    • You should go to the meetings and watch! Maybe take a moment and read some of the statutes(rules) that govern your local government. Just a hint, they can’t just spend the $35 million, never could. It’s called a fund balance, it’s existed for a very long time, goes up, goes down, just like any organization’s bank account. It’s gone up because Charlie was mayor during COVID, and the feds dumped a TON of money into the economy via local governments. Just the CARES money was $37 million directly to KPB(KPB gave a bunch to the cities), and that was Round 1 of federal grant funding to local governments. It’s also gone up because online stores like Amazon now have to collect sales tax, just like all the local businesses, so sales tax revenue has gone up several million a year.

  7. Nobody Interesting – you sound like a Borough insider so you should know that ALL Borough sales tax is dedicated to the Kenai Borough School District by statute. None of that Amazon money is going to help the average Borough resident, but it is certainly a windfall to the teacher’s union! Maybe Mike can work on that! I doubt it!

  8. Fishing for Food – you also sound like a Borough insider, so YOU should know that when the Borough “funds to the cap”, as Charlie has recently, that whatever “cap” amount is left after the sales tax revenue is committed is made up with property tax. So if you fund to the cap, any new sales tax revenue is a direct benefit to borough general government. And I believe Charlie approved the decisions to seek taxes from Amazon and others, so technically he raised taxes without telling anyone. Make no mistake, under Charlie’s administration we are ALL paying higher sales tax than we were before. Unless of course you never shop online.

  9. Nobody Interesting – we are NOT all paying HIGHER sales tax, we are paying the regular Borough Tax rate on online sales which is happening all across the country. I am sure the Borough Assembly had a lot to do with this, as well as Charlie.

  10. You are correct, we are not paying a higher sales tax RATE, we are just paying MORE sales tax. Again, only if you shop online. Personally I think this is great, because it levels the playing field a tiny bit(like 3-6%) for local businesses vs Amazon.

    Regardless, it’s several million dollars yearly in additional sales tax, from local people (tourists probably aren’t shopping on Amazon while in Alaska), that Charlie isn’t pointing out as part of his “I’m such a great conservative and I balanced all the budgets” campaign line.

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