Senator David Wilson (R, Not Lynn Gattis) is the newly elected state senator for Mat-Su. A former Wasilla City Council member, Senator Wilson has boundary issues. Specifically, he can’t seem to separate his employment relationship from his duties a a state senator. As such, he provides a nice case study for WC.
As a Wasilla City Council member, and while he was working for for nonprofit Alaska Family Services as director of a domestic violence and sexual assault program, in December 2015 then-councilman Wilson sponsored an ordinance to appropriate $150,000 to Alaska Family Services for its work with a sexual assault response team. In the debate on the ordinance he had introduced, which would directly benefit his employer, Wilson attempted to step down from his seat on the city council and into the audience to testify on behalf of his ordinance. The Wasilla Mayor and the rest of the city council stopped the nonsense, but not without argument from Wilson, who didn’t see any reason why he couldn’t testify in support of a bill he had introduced, that would benefit his employer. Conflict of interest rules are about boundaries; Wilson seemed to be incapable seeing those boundaries.
Then there was the October 2016 meeting of the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, the CDVSA. The minutes show freshly-elected Senator Wilson1 launching a threatening screed against the CDVSA because, apparently, he thought Alaska Family Services,still his employer, wasn’t being treated fairly. A state senator elect, quite a powerful person, berating a state agency, for failure to fund his employer. Note, again, Senator Wilson’s complete obliviousness to the inherent conflict of interest, to impropriety of his conduct.
Most recently, Senator Wilson introduced Senate Bill 90, which would eliminate $1.5 million in cash grants to Anchorage, Fairbanks and Mat-Su nonprofits to provide “essential human services.” In the Mat-Su, those grants, distributed by the Mat-Su Borough, have paid for a case manager at a youth homeless shelter, home-delivered meals for seniors and free legal help for families with children at risk of abuse or neglect. Mat-Su awarded the grants on a competitive basis; Alaska Family Services was an applicant but didn’t get a grant. Let’s be clear about this: Senator Wilson wants to axe state funding that keeps people alive and safe across the state because his recent employer, Alaska Family Services,2 didn’t get a grant. Sure, Senator Wilson claims he’s acting out of fiscal prudence, but his bill involves a miniscule amount of $1.5 million in the context of the state’s budget. His excuse doesn’t pass the Red Face Test. Once again, Senator Wilson doesn’t see boundaries.
It’s a disturbing pattern. In fact, it’s a Gattis problem. Wasilla has traded a representative who pursued her own interests, not her constituents’, for a state senator who pursues his own interests, not his constituents. In the state primary, Mat-Su voters had to choose between Gattis and Wilson in the only election contest that mattered. It was a classic Hobson’s Choice, a false illusion of choice. It also demonstrates the failure of the Alaska Republican party.
Senator Wilson needs to learn boundaries. He needs training in recognizing and addressing conflicts of interest. Or he’s going to join another tradition of Alaska legislators and end up explaining to a jury of his peers why he isn’t guilty as charged.
- Senator Wilson won the Republican primary, defeating Rep. Lynn Gattis. In Wasilla, the general election in November was a foregone conclusion for a Republican in Wasilla. Senator Wilson ran unopposed. ↩
- Alaska Family Services rates only a very modest Bronze from Guidestar, the charity-rating agency. Much of the downcheck results from Alaska Family Services failure to disclose key information. Feel free to draw your own conclusions. ↩