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Alaska Legislature

Alaska lawmaker seeks review of document leak

  • Author: Becky Bohrer, Associated Press
  • Updated: July 19, 2018
  • Published July 19, 2018

The exterior of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority is shown Wednesday, July 18, 2018, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

JUNEAU — An Alaska lawmaker has asked the state Department of Law to review whether the leaking of a confidential audit merits prosecution.

State Sen. Bert Stedman said it was discovered during an audit of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority that its CEO, Mike Abbott, had released a copy of the preliminary audit to a reporter. Stedman said preliminary audits are considered confidential documents.

Stedman's letter to the department identified Abbott as the executive director.

In a statement, the Sitka Republican, who chairs the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, said the confidentiality of audits in progress must be maintained. An aide said Stedman was traveling Wednesday and unavailable for comment.

Misuse of confidential information is a misdemeanor.

The chair of the trust authority's board, Mary Jane Michael, said in a statement the trust takes seriously the concerns referred to the department and will support any effort to address the concerns.

Cori Mills, a spokeswoman for the Department of Law, said by email that the department mainly receives referrals from state and local law enforcement. Referrals from the Legislature are infrequent, she said.

Once a referral is received, the department works with law enforcement to evaluate whether criminal charges are warranted, she said, adding that investigations are confidential.

Democratic Rep. Andy Josephson, the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee's vice-chair, said he had only seen the press release issued by Stedman Tuesday but supports his position.

"He would be remiss not to make the referral. We'll just see what our criminal law experts say about it," Josephson said.

The final version of the audit that was publicly released concluded that the Mental Health Trust Authority board had violated state laws and terms of a court settlement dealing with management of the mental health trust fund’s cash principal.

The authority's board said the trust's investment decisions "were authorized by and consistent with applicable regulations and legal advice."

The audit also concluded the board had not complied with open meetings and executive branch ethics laws.

"Evidence showed that multiple trustees were, at times, intentionally trying to avoid discussing board business in a public manner," the audit states. It added that at times the board failed to recognize the importance of adhering to state laws when conducting and noticing meetings.

The authority's board said the organization had undergone significant changes since the audit began and training programs had been established to ensure compliance.

The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority is a state corporation established to fund services for people with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and other needs.

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