APOC says Senate candidate failed to disclose clients

Richard Mauer
Anchorage Daily News

The Alaska Public Offices Commission staff said Senate candidate Bob Bell improperly failed to disclose the list of clients of his engineering firm in a filing in May but recommended the maximum $1,040 fine be waived because the disclosure regulation is new.

Bell, a Republican running against Democratic Sen. Hollis French in Senate District J, said Tuesday he would file an amendment to his candidate disclosure and list the clients of F.R. Bell and Associates.

"They changed the rules -- under the old rules, I was good," Bell said.

In 2007, Bell changed the ownership of the firm, placing his shares in an employee stock plan. He remained the chief executive of the firm, however, and continued to receive about $200,000 a year in interest payments from the company, according to an Public Offices Commission staff report.

"Between 2007 and 2012, Candidate Bell continued to sit on various boards and commissions," said the report, written by executive director Paul Dauphinais and dated Sept. 6. "But Candidate Bell did not list the clients of F.R. Bell and Associates in his disclosure filings between 2007 and 2012."

That was legal for most of the period, when the law only required public officials who were majority owners of firms to disclose their clients. The commission changed that rule in December, adding officials who have effective control of a company to the list of those who must disclose clients, Dauphinais wrote.

When Bell became a candidate for the Senate and filed his financial disclosure, he should have listed the clients, Dauphinais wrote.

The maximum fine for failing to disclose is $10 a day, which in Bell's case amounts to $1,040. He also could be liable for investigation costs, which Dauphinais said was about $500.

The five-member bipartisan commission will hear Bell's case at its next meeting, Nov. 1-2. Dauphinais recommended that the investigation costs be waived because Bell was cooperative and "has a good filing history." He also suggested the fine be waived because the regulation was new. Historically, the commission waives penalties in such cases, he said.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Alaska Democratic Party noted that Bell's client list prior to the firm's ownership change in 2007 included oil companies. The industry is supporting Bell's election in part because of French's opposition to Gov. Sean Parnell's proposed oil tax cuts.

"His personal financial interests in these groups should not be hidden from the public," the Democrats said in a statement to media.

Reach Richard Mauer at rmauer@adn.com or 257-4345.

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