Stephens Cautions Former Colleagues on Conflicts


Jay Barrett/KMXT

The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly has been kicking around funding for non-profit organizations recently, something it does every year. Recently, led by assembly members somewhat less inclined to have an open checkbook attitude to organizations doing social-service work, the path to funding has been getting a little steeper, with stricter deadlines and more stringent paperwork.

There has also been criticism of assembly members debating and voting on funding for organizations that they are involved, even though as volunteers they make no money themselves from the borough grants.

At Thursday’s meeting, former Assemblyman Mel Stephens had a suggestion for his former colleagues who fall into that situation.

“I’d like to throw out there for your consideration a proposal that before you next take up the issue of non profit funding at a formal meeting, that you reduce the sensitivities of the conflict of interest issue by individually taking voluntary action to resign from any board or any officer position that you may individually may hold in any organizations that have applied for non profit funding in the recent past, or likely to do so in the recent future,” he said.

“The problem,” Stephens added, “is if you don’t do that, then when you’re talking about non-profit funding, you’ll be placing your self in the situation where you have, as a board member or officer of your non-profit a fiduciary duty to act in that organizations best interest. And yet as an assembly member you have a fiduciary duty to act in the borough’s best interest.  You can avoid that situation, which is an unpleasant situation, you can avoid it by taking voluntary action right now.”

Dennis Simmons, who has run for borough assembly in the past, spoke just after Stephens and said public servants must have accountability.

“I do believe that there is accountability that comes with every public service job. I think that accountability – I would like to say it’s an obvious thing, the conduct a public servant should perform,” Simmons said. “But it’s obvious from my perspective that it’s not obvious. I think it was a profound check out time when Assemblyman Stephens said nobody’s doing the very best they can. That’s what I heard.”

Those comments came during last week’s Kodiak Island Borough Assembly meeting during citizens comments.

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