Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Another One Bites The Dust

No doubt in Juneau watering holes frequented by Fish & Game biologists and DNR staffers, there's many a beer being tipped to the fall of Jim Clark. There are quite a number of community members in Sitka, Ketchikan and Fairbanks that are bellying up to the bar too - those that had their lives and livelihoods trashed and ridiculed by Mr. Clark in his capacity as lead counsel for the Alaska Pulp Corporation, operator of the Sitka and Ketchikan pulp mills, and Fairbanks Gold, operator of the Fort Knox Gold Mine.

As this moment of divine karma unfolds, and the men in black draw ever closer to the Holy Trinity, the Triumvirate, the Big Three, I am flooded with memories of Jim Clark - whom I internally nicknamed the Devil's Spawn.

For instance, can anyone forget policy by pizza? I am of course referring to the relocation of Habitat to DNR at the start of the Clark/Murk administration - payback Clark demanded because of the alleged pizza party thrown by Fish & Game biologists when the Ketchikan pulp mill closed.

Or the fact that Jim Clark, formerly of Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh, was counsel of record for Fairbanks Gold, operator of the Fort Knox gold mine, and Teck Cominco, operator of Pogo and Red Dog?

And that Tom Irwin, formerly the general manager of Fort Knox, and FOC (friend of Clark), first became Commissioner of DNR under the Clark/Murk administration?

Or how about that prior to the development and construction of Fort Knox, all permitting processes that involved both federal and state permits were led by the Division of Governmental Coordination - a state branch that industry did not control quite as thoroughly as DNR. Well, Mr. Clark really didn't like that at all - thought it far too burdensome and time consuming for his client, Fairbanks Gold, and thus he lobbied successfully to have mining projects exempted and permitted through DNR. This was later immortalized by the Clark/Murk administration as the Office of Project Management and Permitting, headed up by Bill Jeffries, another Fort Knox alum and FOC and expanded to include timber and oil and gas projects as well.

While on the subject of mining - here is another little gem: that Mr. Clark was involved with American Reclamation Group - composed of Harry Noah, a former Commissioner of DNR, and Ken Pohle, another former manager of Fort Knox - which was awarded the "mine to reclaim" plum of a contract to clean up (and profit from) the bankrupted and unbonded mess that was Illinois Creek Mine. The "mine to reclaim" concept was shamelessly touted by then DNR Division of Mining Director Bob Loeffler as a win-win situation. Never mind that had DNR been doing the job it is charged to do under statute and constitution, this kind of polluting, bankrupted mess would not have happened.

Then there was the proposed golf course on Douglas Island that Mr. Clark had an interest in. Oops, some Fish and Game biologists did their job and nixed the proposal - too close to too many salmon spawning streams, and you know how golf courses use pesticides and herbicides. Some got pink slips, others got sent to the Alaskan equivalents of Siberia when Clark - I mean - Murk came into office.

And speaking of pink slips - let's not forget about how Mr. Clark "allegedly" made the rounds of legislators that were FOC and industry and asked them if there were any Fish and Game employees that were particularly doing their jobs well, just so as to make sure he didn't miss handing out any pink slips that he should have.

How about how Mr. Clark treated his staff attorneys? Well, it was staff meetings six days a week at 7:30 AM sharp. And personal life? Fuggedabout dat! One young staff attorney was told at the 7:30 AM meeting on a Saturday to catch the next plane for Sitka - which he did - packing for what he thought would be a few days. Four months later he was still in Sitka - kept there round the clock working dinky do stuff like reviewing blue prints and doing copying - and allowed home only under threat of losing his job. Which in short order, he decided was a sweet deal.

Then of course there are my own memories - of the time Mr. Clark was overheard boasting in the Fiddlehead Restaurant that he had run off Trustees for Alaska on a federal litigation matter, which was then eventually won - much to his surprise and no doubt dismay - in state court.

And the time that I got his veins popping in his forehead in a particularly contentious lawyer meeting that had quite the cast of characters there - including not only officials from the company Mr. Clark was representing, but also Dick Lefebvre and Bob Loeffler of DNR . Why industry counsel brought along parties he didn't represent and who were supposed to be objective third parties in the process was never quite explained by Jim, but it was too novel for our side to protest - we were far too curious to see just how these "impartial" agency representatives were going to comport themselves in the meeting.

Ah, how the mighty do fall. It is almost enough to make one a believer.

1 comment:

Deirdre Helfferich said...

Interesting that you should mention Mr. Irwin, of late GVEA G&T stupidity fame. He seemed very sincere at the public meeting about it, if appealing to emotion, back in 2006 when that particular storm was raging, but I've learned the very hard way that sincerity is not the same thing as honesty.

I wonder why the ol' conflict of interest prohibitions don't seem to have been in effect in the Murky administration? (rhetorical question, really--we can all see the result of putting people in office with such staggeringly large conflicts of interest--they end up going to jail!)