Despite the appointment of an impartial third party investigator, debate over the recent election of North Slope Borough mayor continues with lawyers dueling over the release of election information, police records and who should investigate allegations of vote-buying.
After allegedly losing his bid for the borough mayor seat by 62 votes, George Ahmaogak filed a contest of the election, citing numerous vote-count inconsistencies as well as questions of vote-buying and proper care for ballots in transit. The borough certified the election, despite the contest, but appointed attorney Dennis E. “Skip” Cook to investigate the matter for the borough as an impartial third party. But progress in the case has been stalled by borough staff holiday vacations as well as other issues.
At a recent public hearing, attorneys representing the borough, borough mayor Charlotte Brower and Ahmaogak spared over a variety of issues, including access to public records. Ahmaogak’s attorney Timothy A. McKeever filed a lengthy request for public records with the borough, including requests for copies of ballots that were improperly marked, marked defective or challenged as well as copies of the outer envelopes of any absentee ballots. Borough attorney Ethel Patkotak informed McKeever that the borough was objecting to those requests, as well as others, on the grounds that borough code states such records shall be kept sealed and only used as evidence when called for in case of contest. McKeever attests that his request is in direct relation to a case for contest.
The borough also denied McKeever’s request for the release of police records relating to the accident involving borough clerk Jeannie Brower near the airport while she was driving a borough vehicle. Brower was arrested, initially on charges of drunk-driving, and subsequent incarceration. One of the questions of the investigation is whether there was a bag containing ballots in the borough vehicle at the time of the accident. Two individuals who were involved in the retrieval of the vehicle have sworn in affidavits that there was a red bag on the passenger seat when they collected the car. The borough’s ballot-carrying bags are red. The car was left unlocked with the bag in it over the weekend. The borough, however, said it had reservations about releasing the entire police record that relates to the accident because “portions of the record are not suitable for release since they could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy of a suspect, defendant, victim, or witness.” McKeever attests, however that the public has a right to know what the police reports show, whether there were ballots in the vehicle, and if the vehicle was secured.
At a public hearing on Dec. 14, however, Cook said he had looked over the requests for documents and deemed them all public record. “These are all public record,” he said, “and should be available not only to Mr. McKeever but to any member of the public.”
Full Article: Debate continues over election results – The Arctic Sounder.