Recall fever spreads to Haines, Alaska

Haines, Alaska


Haines, Alaska

Homer conservatives aren’t the only ones working to recall members of their city council. The Adventure Capital of Alaska now faces the possible recall of half of its borough assembly, too.

The recall progressed last week when the Haines Borough clerk and  attorney decided there were sufficient grounds for a group to begin gathering signatures on a petition.

The three assembly members facing possible recall include Heather Lende, a local writer; Tom Morphet, who owns the local Chilkat Valley News; and Tresham Gregg, a local artist.

The three are accused of violating the Open Meetings Act by carrying on correspondence about city business amongst them privately and by pressuring the police department to perform duties that would benefit certain assembly members’ private businesses.

A group of 10 residents, led by Don turner Jr., have 60 days to gather 258 signatures on each of the three petitions. If they do, that means Haines will hold a special election for half of its Assembly.

The complaints against the three are, in part, linked to a message from Police Chief Heath Scott that said Assembly members Lende and Morphet asked the police department provide a police blotter.

Morphet, as the publisher of the local newspaper, stands to benefit financially from the blotter, which is a daily incident log, as it would be then printed by his newspaper. Lende makes her living writing about small-town life in Haines, and also writes obituaries for the newspaper.

The group pushing the recall also say that Morphet and Lende should also not have asked the former city manager to delay opening construction bids for the small boat harbor project. Closed emails between Morphet, Lende, and Gregg about the project was a violation of the Alaska Open Meetings Act, according to the group.

The borough manager has since been fired from his job, and the borough has settled with him to the tune of $55,000.

Then, Morphet got into further hot water this month when he publicized complaints about the Haines Police Department intimidating people on numerous occasions.

The group supporting a recall says this is a separate issue, but that his behavior was improper — he should have taken his complaint to the interim manager, Brad Ryan first, rather than bring it out as a complaint in a session of the political body itself.

Meanwhile, across the Gulf of Alaska in Homer, a special election is set for June 13 to recall three city council members who conspired to introduce “sanctuary city” status to Homer.  This would mean that immigration laws would not be enforced in Homer, much like in San Francisco and a few other other “sanctuary cities”. Their ultimate wording watered it down to be an “inclusion” resolution.

The conservative resistance to their “resist Trump” resolution quickly spread and enough signatures were gathered to hold a special recall election. The group in favor of recall is documenting the economic impact that the three caused businesses in town by their actions, impacts that include canceled bookings by would-be visitors to Homer this summer.

[Read: Homer city council goes into full ‘resist’ mode against Trump]

[Read: Smoking gun: Homer city council members intended to create sanctuary city]

The complaint against the Homer councilors — Donna Aderhold, David Lewis and Catriona Reynolds — call them unfit for office, “as evident by their individual efforts in preparation of Resolution 16-121 and 17-109, the text of which stands in clear and obvious violation of Homer City Code Title 1.”

At this rate, 2017 could go down as the Year of the Recall in Alaska’s coastal communities.