ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — The Department of Law says it will review a controversial contract awarded by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to Clark Penney, the grandson of a major political donor to an independent expenditure group that supported the election of Gov. Mike Dunleavy, R-Alaska.
In a letter dated Feb. 18 to Reps. Zach Fields, D-Anchorage, and Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, Attorney General Kevin Clarkson wrote in response to their concerns that “at the request of Governor Dunleavy, I am directing the Department of Law to review the matter.”
Fields and Kreiss-Tomkins had both expressed concerns over the contract and previously grilled officials on the details of the contract during a House Finance Subcommittee meeting.
During a press conference Wednesday, Dunleavy said that his administration would investigate the contract, but first, the governor fired off a volley of accusations at Fields and Kreiss-Tomkins, calling into question their ethical standards in voting for a bill that rolled back conflict of interest rules, and criticism for not passing a full PFD or sticking to a 90-day session.
“The governor is engaging in a bunch of personal attacks to distract from the issue at hand, which is this contract,” Rep. Fields said in an interview with KTUU on Wednesday.
As for the contract, the governor insisted a thorough review was underway.
“We’re looking into it, and we will get to the bottom of whether there was anything done improper, and we will have a press conference on that,” he said.
When asked at the press conference if the Governor’s Office had a say in the contract, Dunleavy did not directly answer the question, but said they were going to find every detail.
“The governor’s office is a big office,” he said. “I know there’s an implication that somehow there was a sweetheart deal with an individual.”
At a Feb. 4 House Commerce, Community and Economic Development Finance Subcommittee meeting, AIDEA CEO and Executive Director Tom Boutin denied being instructed by the governor to hire Penney.
“I certainly wasn’t directed to do so by the governor, I’ve never talked with the governor about either Clark Penney or Clark Penney’s services contract,” he said.
News of Penney’s contract was first reported in May 2019 by the political blog Alaska Landmine. In a follow-up article on Feb. 13, the Landmine’s editor-in-chief claimed to have obtained an internal document from AIDEA indicating one of the points in support of hiring Penney was “by governor’s request.”
In an email Thursday, AIDEA spokesman Karsten Rodvik wrote that the public corporation had not been contacted by the Department of Law, and that they were doing their own research into the document.
As for the Department of Law investigation, Fields has raised concerns about Attorney General Clarkson’s ability to conduct an impartial investigation.
“Mike Dunleavy has had Kevin Clarkson represent him in court in Mike Dunleavy’s personal capacity,” Fields said. “Kevin Clarkson can’t do an independent investigation of this matter because he represents the governor.”
The Department of Law did not provide any indication as to who from the Department would conduct the investigation or how long it would take.
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