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Records show consultant met with governor in October, contradicting report

  • Author: Nathaniel Herz
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published February 1, 2016

JUNEAU — New records released Monday show that a political consultant visited Alaska Gov. Bill Walker's office the same day that the consultant, Art Hackney, billed the state $200 for an hour-long meeting, contradicting an earlier report.

Hackney, a GOP consultant whose invoices are being reviewed by Walker's office after discrepancies emerged last week, billed for a meeting Oct. 13 that he said was with Walker and Jim Whitaker, Walker's chief of staff.

The meeting did not appear on Walker's official calendar, which showed he spent most of the day in Fairbanks. A spokeswoman for Walker said last week that neither the governor nor Whitaker could recall the session. Alaska Dispatch News cited Walker and Whitaker in a story last week reporting what appeared to have been "phantom meetings" in Hackney's billings to the state.

But Hackney, in an email message Sunday, cited specific details of the meeting. He said it was requested late on Oct. 13 by Walker's communications director, Grace Jang, following Walker's return from Fairbanks.

And in an email message Monday, Jang provided a copy of the Oct. 13 sign-in sheet from the Atwood Building — the state-owned complex that houses Walker's Anchorage office. While almost all the records of comings and goings on the sheet were blocked out, it showed Hackney signing in at 7:05 p.m. and leaving at 7:35 p.m.

In a follow-up email, Hackney said he billed for one hour because he had to rush back to the meeting after he started to drive home, and discussed the meeting afterward with another consultant hired by Walker, Jack Ferguson.

Ferguson, in a phone interview Monday, said he had "no doubt" that Hackney met with Walker that evening.

The sign-in sheet provided by Jang appears to show Ferguson signing in on the line below Hackney's. Neither arrival nor departure time was recorded on the sign-in line for Ferguson, whose own monthly invoices show single charges of $20,000 and $10,000 for "consulting."

"We were called back individually to meet with the governor that night," Ferguson said. "Art came in first and I went in second, and I high-fived him on the way in."