Archive for April 26th, 2012
According to Lisa Demer, writing in the Anchorage Daily News, sometime Governor and former oil industry lobbyist Sean Parnell has “pulled” oil tax legislation from the agenda for the current special session.
According to a press release on the Governor’s website,
Stemming Alaska’s production decline and growing our economy through increased oil production is extremely important, both now and in the long term. But there are some in the Senate who believe that Alaska’s oil production decline is a myth. This is an irresponsible disregard for the facts and Alaskans deserve much better.
Given the hardline position of some in the Senate against increasing production from both existing and new fields, the Senate appears incapable of passing comprehensive oil tax reform. Accordingly, I am removing consideration of oil and gas taxes at this time.
Those statements are so far from reality that the Governor won’t find his way back without a map.
The issue is not and never has been whether production volume is declining. No one thinks declining production is “myth.” The issue is whether ACES was contributing to the decline, and, if so, what should be done about it. Rather than simply handing Big Oil a couple of billion bucks.
What seemed to be happening was the the House started taking the Senate’s bill seriously, looking at it with a view to tweaking it a bit and maybe sending a compromise bill back to the Senate. That was after the Parnell Administration badly embarrassed itself at earlier hearings, serving up Parnell’s earlier bill with no explanation – and apparently no understanding – of the real issues. That demonstrated incompetence seemed to incline the House toward the Senate bill.
Parnell apparently couldn’t seem to stand the idea of anything but his two billion dollar giveaway, so he shut the issue down. Like a grade schooler, like petulant child who couldn’t get his way, he has taken his marbles and gone home. Presumably, he is counting on reapportionment to change the composition and alliances in the state senate.
The Senate’s bill, for all its warts, was a thoughtful, considered and informed approach to the issue. Why isn’t the Governor interested? Who is he working for?
Joe Miller’s lawsuit against the Fairbanks North Star Borough drags on; reportedly he has been spending some $10,000 a month in attorneys’ fees in his effort to prove … what, exactly? While WC is happy that his friend John Tiemessen is taking home Miller’s money – well, Miller’s PAC funds – exactly what is this lawsuit about? Besides demonstrating an astonishing vindictive streak in candidate Miller?
Miller is unhappy because the story about his attempted fraud and criminal misconduct, as well as the story of the end of his employment at the Borough, were leaked out before Judge Burbank ordered that they be made public. To be specific, Miller thinks his rights were violated because former Mayor Jim Whitaker and possibly others talked about Miller’s attempted fraud through the use of his law department colleagues’ computers. Whitaker talked about Miller’s initial lies when confronted with his fraud.
Remember, Judge Burbank later ruled that the records be made public. Miller didn’t appeal that decision. All Miller can whine about is the interval between when Whitaker and any others talked and the date of Judge Burbank’s order. That part of the case is settled law.
But there are two problems with any claim about the conduct of anyone prior to Judge Burbank’s order. First, such a claim is based upon a profound misunderstanding of public records law in general and Judge Burbank’s order in particular. Second, it is utterly unsupported by the Borough policies Miller tries to rely upon.
Alaska law requires any doubts about whether records are public be resolved in favor of disclosure. The exceptions are quite narrow. Municipalities like the Borough are free to narrow the exceptions still further, but they cannot make them broader. The records of Miller’s criminal antics and ineligibility for rehire were never inside an exception to the general rule of disclosure. If anything, the Borough was wrong for failing to immediately cough them up, rather than insisting on a court order. Judge Burbank’s order found that there was no basis for failing to turn them over; he didn’t find they should be made public. Judge Burbank found Miller’s records – less a few redactions – were public records. No one who “leaked” the records can have done anything wrong. The records were never private. They were always public, always subject to disclosure.
It gets worse for Miller. The Borough has chosen to make the exception for personnel records even narrower than state law requires. Borough policies provide that only a narrow subset of personnel records are private:
Documents that contain information to which an individual has a legitimate expectation of privacy that outweighs the public interest in the request.
Policy No. 75.01(D)(3)
Miller was a candidate for the U.S. Senate. The records in his file went to his fitness for that office. The public’s interest in the record of Miller’s malfeasance strongly outweighed any legitimate expectation Miller might have in their privacy. The personnel records showed Miller engaged in paranoid behavior under stress. The records showed Miler would engage in criminal use of computers to achieve his goals. The records showed Miller would lie about this conduct to cover it up. Can you imagine any records more highly relevant to the public, as the voters are asked to accept Miller as their U.S. Senator?
Any claim by Miller that it was improper for Borough officials to leak information about this conduct simply fails to pass the Red Face Test. The Red Face Test is whether a lawyer can make an argument without his face turning red from embarrassment. Miller flunks the test.
So why is this turkey of a lawsuit still around? WC can speculate.
- He is punishing his “enemies,” including Tony Hopfinger, the editor of the Alaska Dispatch, who Miller’s security goons illegally arrested.
- He’s maneuvering to avoid an award of attorneys’ fees against him.
- He’s delusional.
- He thinks the publicity associated with the lawsuit is beneficial, under the “any publicity is good publicity” theory.
The problem for Miller is that none of these reasons is a legitimate basis for a claim. It’s a problem for John Tiemessen, Miller’s lawyer, too. Civil Rule 11 and all that.
So the floor is open for suggestions: what is Miller’s real motive for keeping this stupid lawsuit alive?