Entire City Council of Holy Cross faces APOC fines

Rachel D'Oro | Associated Press

Four months after surviving a recall campaign, the Holy Cross City Council is facing fines from the state of Alaska for failing to make mandatory financial disclosures on time.

The tiny Alaska Native village previously paid the state more than $37,000 in civil penalties this summer for failing to provide worker's compensation insurance for city employees for more than two years.

The village would have paid a premium of about $3,258 to stay in compliance for the 868 days the insurance had lapsed. Holy Cross came into compliance on March 23 -- 220 days after being notified of the lapse by the state Division of Workers Compensation, state documents say.

Seven council members have issued a late appeal with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, asking for waiver of the financial disclosure fines that range from $250 to $450.

The appeal notice -- stating it was the second appeal due to miscommunication -- says there has been a continual change of council and administration since 2009, and "throughout this period the new council and change of city employees have not been knowledgeable of required documents the city is required to maintain on a yearly basis."

The notice was submitted Wednesday to the commission, one day after Mayor Rebecca Demientieff told The Associated Press the fines had been paid.

Demientieff said Thursday she thought the city administrator took care of the matter. Asked if that wasn't something to be handled by the individuals cited, she declined to answer any more questions.

City Administrator Connie Walker could not be reached for comment.

Commission assistant director Jerry Anderson said his office had no record of any initial appeal. He said it was not a municipality's obligation to resolve cases when it's a person who fails to file.

In April, Demientieff and three other council members running for re-election defeated challengers who had launched a recall effort against the entire council.

The challengers alleged mishandling of multiple duties, including the lapse in financial disclosures and workers' compensation insurance, and the failure to hold regular meetings or follow through with scheduled elections.

State officials confirmed an unsuccessful attempt by council members to obtain a $600,000 state grant by submitting apparently fabricated documents -- a topic about which council members have declined to comment.

Holy Cross officials denied the recall application just before the election.

Despite losing at the polls, recall proponents believe their campaign served as a wakeup call in the community of 175. Holy Cross is located about 330 miles northwest of Anchorage.

Jeff Demientieff, one of the four recall proponents, said the council appears to be more active in their roles, posting meeting notices more regularly.

"It sounds like they need to be a little more educated," said Demientieff, whose second cousin is married to Rebecca Demientieff. "But they're learning."

Rebecca Demientieff said the council is holding regular meetings and the village has been busy with improvement projects, such as temporarily hiring five people to clean up the city equipment facility.

She doesn't believe the recall effort had to happen but conceded it might have sped up the learning curve for the council.

"I'm 29 years old," she said. "I've never been into politics before."

Associated Press