Bethel investigation confirms unspecified code, policy violations by city employees, mayor says

Nathaniel Herz

An investigation by an attorney hired by the Bethel City Council has confirmed city employees violated code and policies, Mayor Joe Klejka said Tuesday.

The City Council isn't discussing the specifics, but members will meet within the next two weeks to determine what happens to City Manager Lee Foley, who was placed on paid administrative leave last month.

The council asked Anchorage lawyer Michael Gatti to review a series of city contracts and agreements in February. It also asked Gatti to examine whether it was permitted for Foley to hire his son. Klejka has described that as a violation of Bethel's nepotism rules. Klejka, who's also a member of the City Council, said members could decide to end Foley's contract or keep it in place.

A cellphone number that Foley posted on Facebook went directly to voicemail Tuesday. He did not immediately respond to an email message.

Klejka would not release any documents or reports related to the investigation, or even confirm that any existed. He provided only general details about the violations confirmed by the attorney.

But he said in an interview that the investigation had established violations related to procurement, leave, nepotism and credit card usage, as well as violations of personnel, travel and training policies.

"The council will be taking remedial measures to address these issues and concerns," Klejka said.

Klejka first announced the violations at a Monday evening meeting of Bethel's City Council, according to local radio station KYUK. Council members spent three hours with their attorney in an executive session, which is closed to the public, KYUK said.

Klejka said the review found "three items" that didn't go through the city's procurement process, including the demolition of Bethel's old police station.

The nepotism violations were connected to the employment of Foley's son in the city's information technology department, as well as the employment of the former city police chief's daughter in that department, Klejka said.

Klejka also said individuals had made personal charges on city credit cards that had later been reimbursed.

Klejka said that the council was not disclosing more information because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

"There's people involved in this. I'm more concerned, and the council's more concerned, about fixing things and about making sure these things don't happen again," he said. "Any criminal conduct would be reported immediately. But everything else falls into an area where you really have to balance what statements you make."

A spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Public Safety said the state Bureau of Investigation had no involvement in Bethel's investigation.

Reach Nathaniel Herz at or 257-4311.