Sealaska CEO says Kookesh misspoke

Sean Cockerham | Tribune Media Services,

JUNEAU -- Sealaska CEO Chris McNeil this week called the controversial comments state Sen. Albert Kookesh made to the Craig City Council earlier this month an "incongruous choice of words." McNeil said it's unfortunate the media are focusing on them rather than the issue of Sealaska's lands bill in Congress.

Kookesh, an Angoon Democrat who represents Craig in the Legislature, is drawing ethics allegations after coming to the City Council meeting to lobby on behalf of the Sealaska bill. Kookesh, who is Sealaska's board chair, brought up the city's funding requests to the Legislature as the council talked about whether to send Congress a letter opposing the Sealaska bill.

"I am the state senator that represents Craig. I'm not a vindictive person," Kookesh told the council. "I see you're going to have your 2010 capital projects on the table here tonight. And who's it going to go to? It's going to go to me. And to (Rep.) Bill Thomas, who is also a Sealaska board member. We have to be good neighbors."

'There are times you are going to need my help and Bill Thomas' help," Kookesh said. "And this is a time we need yours."

Sealaska CEO McNeil's statement described it as a "brief, unguarded moment," and praised Kookesh as a dedicated and passionate advocate for Southeast Alaska villages. McNeil's full statement laid out Sealaska's arguments for the lands bill. Read it at

Sean Cockerham, Anchorage Daily News