Sunday, January 14, 2007

Ben Stevens accused of ethics violations

JUNEAU - Days before he leaves office, state Senate President Ben Stevens is accused of multiple violations of financial disclosure rules.

Alaska Public Offices Commission staffers are recommending thousands of dollars in fines be imposed by the five-member panel, which meets in Anchorage this week.

The commission is tentatively scheduled to take up the issue on Thursday.

Two complaints against Stevens, R-Anchorage, were brought by the Republican Moderate Party, which said the senator failed to disclose income from a consulting business and from his service on the board of directors of Semco Energy. Semco is the parent company of Enstar Natural Gas Co., Alaska's largest utility.

Commission staffers determined that in both cases, Stevens should have reported the income, said Brooke Miles, executive director of the commission.

Under state law, reporting income is required if there is a controlling interest in a company, but the statute doesn't specify what a controlling interest is.

Calls placed to Stevens’ office in Anchorage on Tuesday by The Associated Press were not immediately returned.

Stevens has previously argued that the consulting firm in which he once had part ownership was not required to reveal its income sources because Stevens didn't have a controlling interest.

The company, Advance North, was established by Stevens and Trevor McCabe, a former legislative director for U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, Ben Stevens' father. McCabe now solely owns the company.

Stevens' argument "defies common sense," said Ray Metcalfe, a former state legislator who brought the complaint in 2005 on behalf of the party. He questioned who controlled the company if not Stevens.

APOC apparently agreed.

The commission decided Stevens did have controlling interest and should have reported payments to Advance North.

Alaska law allows a $10 per day penalty for late filings. The staff calculated late filings for 2004-2006 would reach $10,170 and recommended such a fine be assessed.

Stevens and Advance North received hundreds of thousands of dollars in undisclosed payments during that time.

The Republican Moderate Party also claimed Stevens failed to report $74,000 in payments received from Semco Energy two years ago.

Stevens told the commission he had not reported the income because he deferred receipt under a company-offered program.

The commission, however, disagreed saying it qualified as income for 2005, citing the state's disclosure laws.

"Although the compensation could be deferred for IRS tax purposes, staff concludes that it still qualified as income under Alaska's disclosure laws in 2005 when it was earned," according to an APOC report.

APOC's staff recommended a $10-per-day fine for the 63 days that he failed to disclose the income.

No comments: