AD Main Menu

Alaska campaign finance watchdog sued by Pebble mine foe

Amanda Coyne

Anchorage-based money market maven and Pebble mine foe Bob Gillam is suing the executive director as well as the chair of the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC), the state agency that monitors campaign spending. Among other things, the suit alleges that APOC is biased against Gillam, and that the Commission tolerates behavior that's "pervasive and corrosive" to Gillam's rights.

The suit says that in early September 2012, APOC Executive Director Paul Dauphinais met with an unnamed state official to discuss a "substantial" amount of additional funding so that the agency could "get" Gillam and could "ruin" Gillam, and "destroy him." Commission Chair Elizabeth Hickerson is the other defendant.

Gillam's money market firm, McKinley Capital Management, is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and officers of the firm are required to report all legal infractions. Such infractions could result in the SEC pulling Gillam's license to trade.

The Alaska Department of Law's John Ptacin, who is defending Dauphinais and Hickerson, declined comment. Dauphinais did not immediately return calls.

Gillam has often been in front of APOC defending himself and his business, RBG Bush Planes, against allegations that in his quest to stop the colossal gold and copper mine in Southwestern Alaska which would be built near a private lodge Gillam owns, he has violated campaign laws.

So far, although he has paid settlement fines, he has yet to be found guilty of infractions. Another complaint against Gillam is pending that he wants investigated outside of APOC.

The lawsuit demands a special investigator outside of the agency and that APOC have nothing to do with the complaint.

Gillam held to 'different standard'?

Dauphinais and the assistant director Jerry Anderson are also accused of telling the APOC staff, which Dauphinais oversees, that a "different, heightened standard applies to any allegation against Gillam." Too, they and the staff have often referred to the law firm Holmes, Weddle & Barcott, which represents Gillam, as “Hinder, Withhold & Boycott.”

The commission assesses campaign violation penalties in Alaska. Dauphinais and other staff prepare investigations, reports and recommendations for the commission about whether or not a law has been broken. Because, according to the suit, Dauphinais is out to "get" and "destroy" Gillam, "the APOC is not a fair and impartial tribunal in which any complaint against Plaintiffs may be investigated or heard with any reasonable belief that the APOC or its staff will act to protect and preserve Plaintiffs' constitutional rights, including but not limited to due process of law."

It's unclear which state official is being referred to in the suit. Tim McKeever, one of Gillam's lawyers, said that the quotes in question are "well founded and based on reliable information."

APOC is housed under the Alaska State Department of Administration. It sets its own budget, which DOA ultimately approves.  

The commission hires the executive director, who then hires staff. Turnover has been high at the agency since Dauphinais took the executive director job in February 2011. Nine of 14 APOC staff have left the agency over the last 18 months.

It wasn't immediately clear how many of those positions have been filled. A spokesperson for the Department of Administration confirmed the department is looking into the agency's high turnover rate.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amanda(at)alaskadispatch.com