ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - UPDATE: Tuesday, April 7 at 4:15 p.m.
Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson says North Slope Borough officials have no legal authority to seize facilities of Ravn Alaska, which shut down all flights and filed for bankruptcy protection Sunday.
"The North Slope Borough does not have the authority to commandeer property." Clarkson said in a written statement. "All Ravn’s property is part of its bankruptcy estate. This means the North Slope Borough order is void under federal and state law. Any party seeking to operate air services also needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration."
Clarkson said the state appreciates the concerns of establishing substitute air service for all communities impacted by Ravn’s bankruptcy, including communities in the North Slope Borough. He added "However, the North Slope Borough’s actions in this case were counterproductive. As long as local governments might be attempting to seize Ravn’s property it will be more difficult to establish replacement air service."
Clarkson said more than 1,200 Ravn employees who were laid off on Sunday are unpaid and actions by local governments that impede the bankruptcy jeopardize those employees being paid.
"Ravn, the State, North Slope Borough, and other stakeholders are working diligently to establish substitute air service as quickly as possible and get Ravn’s former employees paid, all within the bankruptcy context." Clarkson said. "Any disruption by local governments makes those goals more difficult to achieve."
After Ravn Air grounded all of its flights, and filed for bankruptcy protection, the North Slope Borough government has seized the company's facilities under an emergency order.
In an email statement to Channel 2 Monday evening, North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower wrote "We’ve tried to work with Ravn whose news has gone from limiting services, to cutting services, to pulling out of the Slope, to as of last night filing for Bankruptcy and locking the Deadhorse and Utqiagvik facilities. Residents learned of most of this on a note posted to terminal doors."
Brower referenced Ravn's bankruptcy filing as a key reason for issuing the emergency order to take control of the company's facilities in communities on the slope. "I’m not telling an elder in Point Hope to call a bank in New York to see when her medicine will arrive or a child in Kaktovik that school is not only gone, your education is in the hands of the CDC guidelines and banks."
Brower said the borough government has no interest in trying to profit from the situation, or retaining possession of Ravn's assets, adding "we wanted the facilities under Borough control so they would not be boarded up and locked during the largest pandemic in modern history and could be used by other airlines. That’s what has now happened."
The mayor expressed gratitude to other air carriers that have pledged to fill the gap left by Ravn's sudden departure.
"Our hope is that we will soon have more details to announce regarding the shared use of the facilities and we thank these companies again for doing what Ravn could no longer do and we are thrilled that at least some of the bankrupt companies employees will and have landed new positions with Wright and Ryan Air", Brower wrote.
The mayor also said the emergency order will be lifted as soon as agreements can be worked out to allow other air carriers to use Ravn's facilities.
A spokesperson for Ravn did not have any immediate comment about the situation Monday night.
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