Wilken sees no conflict in switching to Fairbanks natural gas utility board

It's no surprise that former Sen. Gary Wilken disagrees with my claim that he faces a conflict of interest regarding his nomination to the Interior Gas Utility board, following his resignation from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority board.

Both positions are volunteer posts. His nomination to the IGU by Fairbanks City Mayor Jim Matherly is subject to approval by the Fairbanks City Council.

In my opinion, the immediate issue is whether it is appropriate for Wilken to leave AIDEA and go to IGU, given the controversy created by the resignation of a respected IGU board member, engineer Frank Abegg. He said AIDEA used its position to get IGU to sign a deal that puts the community in a bad financial position.

Wilken contends there is no conflict. "AIDEA is now the lender, IGU the customer. I will be a board member of a company which is seeking assistance from its financier.  The fact that I worked for the bank should only enhance efforts to utilize available financial tools to build this investment grade utility," Wilken wrote as part of an email exchange with me.

Wilken said Dana Pruhs, chairman of the AIDEA board and brother of Fairbanks City Council member David Pruhs, is preparing a "fact based response" to Abegg's detailed resignation letter. 

I suggest a broader response and more public discussion. The allegations in Abegg's letter need to be addressed and answered in writing by Wilken, AIDEA and the other members of the IGU board.

I would not hold this opinion if the resignation letter had been written by someone without an extensive background with Fairbanks utilities and the effort to promote a natural gas distribution system in Fairbanks. Abegg has that background.

At the Aug. 7 IGU board meeting, when Abegg's resignation was accepted, fellow board member Steve Haagenson, former GVEA president, said that many of the things in the resignation letter could not be talked about until recently because of nondisclosure requirements.

"I'm glad he put it out because it needs to be talked about. I think it needs to get resolved somehow and the public needs to know the things which this board has been handed," Haagenson said of Abegg's letter.

The issues need to be talked about and resolved somehow.  Abegg's letter is on pages 31-34 of this document.


Dermot Cole3 Comments