BoF rebukes Stutes’ letter warning against predetermined decision-making

At last week’s Board of Fisheries meeting, board members rebuked a letter that Rep. Louise Stutes submitted expressing concern about meeting procedure.

Rep. Louise Stutes at the Kodiak Legislative Information Office. (Photo by Kavitha George/KMXT)

Stutes claimed there was “strong public perception” that board members had predetermined some of their decisions on allocation issues and other fisheries proposals. Some of the proposals, she wrote, “prioritize one area over another” without addressing underlying issues. She urged the board to “reengage” with local stakeholders before making their decisions.

“What I am saying is, there were comments made on and off the record by board members that I was privy to that clearly indicated the outcome of this meeting had been predetermined before they ever got the Kodiak,” she told KMXT on Monday.

Stutes emphasized that her warnings to the board were solely about following meeting procedure and ensuring a fair process.

Notably, her letter did not name any board members, quote any of the members’ comments, or specify which proposals had supposedly been predetermined. She told KMXT that was because she did not want to get insert herself into allocation discussions or create ill will between her office and the Board.

As it turned out, multiple board members appeared personally offended by the letter. Märit Carlson-Van Dort called the letter an “affront,” and said she was “disappointed” by it. Israel Payton said he thought it was “very offensive” to claim the board would work from preconceived notions. His response was the most personal, explaining that being a board member is a time-consuming position that takes him away from his wife and children.

“It’s a strain on our marriage and relationship. And to be accused of coming in here with a closed mind and not looking at this is a disgrace. Because why would I go to all that trouble and time and effort to put it in?

The Board of Fisheries has been called out for procedural violations in the past. In September, the state ombudsman reported that the board violated the Open Meetings Act by moving the location of its Cook Inlet finfish meeting without proper public notice.

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