Archive for September 27th, 2009
In the next few months, the American Ornithological Union (“AOU) will be deciding whether to “split” the Red Crossbill into two species: the Red Crossbill and the South Hills Crossbill. There is a strong case to make the South Hills Crossbill a new species, Loxia sinesciuris. The “Type 9″ Red Crossbill, it has the largest bills of the species group, evolved to manage the large, heavy Lodgepole cones.
So when the chance came, while we were visiting family in Boise, we headed down I-84 to Twin Falls, and then south along the Rock Creek Valley into the South Hills, a decent-sized set of hills south of the Snake River Plain, hard against the Nevada border. It was decent birding en route, including a nice cluster of Swainson’s Hawks and a good selection of sparrows.
The South Hills are suffering a plague of four-wheelers. They have torn up the hillsides, created erosion channels and blasted the understory in the Lodgepole Pine thickets. Red Crossbills are noisy birds, but it was hard to hear them over the ATVs. The motorcycle squad – 35-40 big Harleys – didn’t help, either. But despite the noise and dust, we found the bird. Specifically, a female or subadult – they look much the same – near the top of a Lodgepole at Diamondfield Jack Campground. Birding under adverse conditions, indeed.
Unhappily, the Lodgepole Pines in the South Hills are in serious decline. Changing climate have weakened them, and parasites like the bark beetle are wiping them out. Current predictions have the pines gone by the end of the century. With them will go the Southills Crossbill.
Fairbanks North Star Borough voters will select a new Borough Mayor on October 6. Among the candidates is former Borough Assemblymember Hank Bartos.
What Mr. Bartos hasn’t been talking about is his career as a real estate licensee and broker. That may be because he should be embarrassed about it. On June 18, the Real Estate Commission, which supervises real estate licensees and brokers, imposed a 60-day suspension, one year of probation, fines of $9,500, 30 hours of required professional training and a reprimand against the real estate license of Bartos, due to four violations of Alaska real estate law.
Based on an accusation filed by the Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing, and following a four-day hearing in Fairbanks in August 2008, the Commission found that Bartos, the broker at Century 21 and the majority shareholder in a corporation that owned both the local Century 21 and Coldwell Banker franchises, improperly employed the broker at Coldwell Banker (who was also his business partner and a minority shareholder in the same corporation) as his assistant at Century 21, and also improperly employed a Coldwell Banker salesperson as his property manager at Century 21.
The commission also found that Bartos failed to disclose a conflict of interest and a dual agency relationship in a transaction that involved both Century 21 and Coldwell Banker. Finally, the commission found that Bartos failed to properly supervise a Century 21 salesperson in a residential sales transaction to ensure that a property disclosure form – wherein the seller reported flooding and drainage problems – was reviewed and signed by the buyer at the time of sale. (The buyer, who was unaware of these problems, subsequently experienced severe flooding at the residence the buyer had purchased.)
The Commission justified the suspension and the probation, which were not part of the ALJ’s proposed decision, because of the number, the seriousness, and the pattern of the violations.
The Commission isn’t exactly known for its strict regulation of its members. Partly that’s because the majority of its members are real estate brokers and licensees. Only a small fraction of the complaints made are seriously investigated. It takes serious misconduct to get yourself suspended. Amendments to real estate licensee law in 2002 removed the protection of agency law for persons working with a real estate licensee. Almost any kind of conflict of interest is permitted now. Provided you get a form signed. The failure by Bartos to get that form signed raised troubling questions that the Commission felt had to be punished.
Mr. Bartos has appealed the Commission’s decision. The appeal is in its very early stages.
So what should we take from Mr. Bartos’s Real Estate Commission decision as he runs for Borough Mayor? How does the strong reaction of a generally laissez faire Commission to his misconduct bear on his fitness to be Borough Mayor? Will his inadequate regard for conflicts of interest and disclosure be reflected in his mayoralty, if he is elected? For me, it is a very significant red flag. His failure to recognize his responsibility as broker for the actions and inactions of the licensees he is charged with supervising is another significant red flag. We have a strong field of candidates for Borough Mayor. We can afford to be choosy. Choose someone else.
Just for the record: these are my own observations. I’m not paid by anyone. These are my opinions, nothing more.