Landlords for Legislature's Anchorage office building file $37 million damages claim

JUNEAU — The landlords for the Alaska lawmakers' downtown Anchorage office building have filed a legal claim for $37 million, saying they're owed the money because the Legislature failed to follow its own procurement rules when it awarded the landlords their lease.

The 19-page claim, filed Friday and announced by the landlords Monday, comes after Superior Court Judge Patrick McKay ruled in March that the Legislature's 10-year, no-bid lease was illegal and invalid. The claim can be a precursor to a lawsuit by the landlords against the state.

Lawmakers are now planning to leave the Fourth Avenue building developed by landlords Mark Pfeffer and Bob Acree. Instead, they're planning to purchase a Wells Fargo-owned building in Spenard.

"We are willing to work with the Legislature to achieve savings but without the Legislature's cooperation, we have no choice but to seek legal recourse," a spokeswoman for the landlords, Amy Slinker, wrote in a prepared statement.

The claim begins an administrative process likely to lead to a lawsuit, said Kodiak Republican Sen. Gary Stevens, who chairs the Legislative Council — the joint House-Senate committee that's charged with finding lawmakers a permanent home.

"It means that there's going to be a lawsuit and we expected that," Stevens said in a brief interview Monday. He said he plans no immediate response to the claim before conferring with the Legislature's attorneys.

But if Pfeffer and Acree file a lawsuit, their assertions that they faithfully carried out every request from the Legislature are likely to collide with the constitutional restriction that all state contracts are subject to legislative appropriation.