Former Gov. Bill Walker and his partners at Brena, Bell, and Walker have a contract with the City of Valdez to provide legal services that include: “Represent the City before FERC in the Alaska LNG permitting process to ensure objective analysis of the Valdez Alternative.”
This is a version of the previous contract Walker used to have to be the city attorney for the Prince William Sound municipality before he became governor. Since leaving office, he has returned to the law firm that he sold to Robin Brena for an undisclosed amount of money in 2015.
The problem for Walker is that as recently as 11 months ago, he was directing that Alaska Gasline Development Agency from his post in the Governor’s Office. That was well-known, in spite of the firewall that the AGDC board was supposed to be. It was Walker directing the gasline and it was Walker making the deals with China.
Now, Brena, Bell, and Walker is defending Valdez as a potential terminus for the Alaska Gasline, by making arguments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on behalf of Valdez that Nikiski is an inappropriate terminus. Their reasons include that Anchorage and the MatSu don’t need natural gas.
The relevant section of Alaska law that applies to Walker is in Section II of the Executive Ethics Act:
II. Post-State Employment Restrictions
A. Two-Year Restriction on Participation in Certain Matters
“Under AS 39.52.180(a), a two-year prohibition applies to certain post-state employment activities. For two years after leaving state service, a former state officer may not “represent, advise, or assist a person for compensation regarding a matter that was under consideration by the administrative unit served by that public officer, and in which the officer participated personally and substantially through the exercise of official action.” The Department of Law reads this provision consistent with the legislature’s intent that AS 39.52.180 be narrowly applied.10 Thus, subsection 180(a) prohibits an activity during the two-year post-state employment period only if the activity meets each of the elements of that subsection.
The Ethics Act and related regulations define most of the terms used in AS 39.52.180(a). A “public officer” includes any public employee in the classified, partially exempt, or exempt service.11 “Person” includes a business or organization.12 “Compensation” means money or other economic benefit received in return for services rendered to another.13 “Administrative unit” means “a branch, bureau, center, committee, division, fund, office, program, section, or any other subdivision of an agency.”14 “Agency” includes an executive branch department.15
“Matter” includes “a case, proceeding, application, contract, or determination, proposal or consideration of a legislative bill, a resolution, a constitutional amendment, or other legislative measure, or proposal, consideration, or adoption of an administrative regulation.”16 General formulation of policy also does not constitute a “matter” for purposes of post-state employment restrictions.17
“Official action” means “advice, participation, or assistance, including, for example, a recommendation, decision, approval, disapproval, vote, or other similar action, including inaction, by a public officer.”18 Whether participation in a matter is “personal and substantial” depends on the circumstances of each case. Routine processing of documents, general supervision of employees without direct involvement in a matter, and ministerial functions not involving the merits of a matter do not constitute “personal and substantial” participation.19 As a former public officer, you are precluded for two years from further involvement in matters in which you had substantial actual involvement and took official action.”
Walker may have figured out a workaround by having one of his partners serve as proxy for him in his dealings on the gasline matter, but he can’t pretend to not be involved through the back door. And that would be prohibited by law.
The remedy? Nikiski, if it were so inclined, could file a complaint with the Attorney General, since it is being targeted by Brena, Bell, and Walker.