State can't defend $441,000 no-bid contract with grandson of Bob Penney

In trying to justify his approval of a no-bid $441,000 state contract to a fellow Dunleavy loyalist, Tomas Boutin, CEO of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority , claims there was no need to waste time with competitive bids.

“I believe there is an urgency to bring business initiators to Alaska, gaining the attention of proven entrepreneurs, learning details of real and perceived impediments businesses face in coming to Alaska,” Boutin wrote to Reps. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins and Zack Fields.

He also wrote about how Clark Penney, a grandson of Dunleavy benefactor Bob Penney, will help get new businesses in Alaska, “ramping up Alaska production of more goods and services the world wants to buy.”

Reading his buzzword-heavy letter reminded me of the insight displayed by this applicant for a job at Dumass & Dumass.

The only new business initiated so far is the insider deal with Clark Penney.

There is more than an appearance of a political payoff here, but Boutin won’t admit it. He said he knew of Bob Penney’s donations to Dunleavy only by reading the news and he does not know the family. “I did not know Clark Penney until earlier this year,” he said.

None of this explains why a no-bid contract to someone he had just met is in the public interest when there are regulations calling for competition.

Boutin’s failure to respond to simple questions from legislators demonstrates that AIDEA should end the contract and seek competitive bids, if this work is necessary at all. The taint should be obvious to the AIDEA board members—Dana Pruhs, Julie Anderson, Greg Samorajski, Albert Fogle, Bernie Karl, Bill Kendig and Julie Sande.

Like Clark Penney, Boutin was a deputy treasurer of the Dunleavy campaign, portraying the candidate a year ago as perfect for the state’s top job. “No one now or earlier has been more consistently on point with the values Alaskans hold dear. No one has expressed nearly as well the common sense remedies necessary to overcome the Walker economic woes,” he said.

Boutin is standing by indefensible claims that seeking competitive bids would mean a “delay in implementing the governor’s New Industry Development Team and delay in achieving tangible results to the governor’s 'Open for Business’ strategy,” according to an AIDEA document.

Jeff Landfield of the Alaska Landmine broke the story of the no-bid contract given by Boutin’s agency and reported on the response to Fields and Kreiss-Tompkins.

As someone who has been in and out of government employment for a long time, regularly calling for reduced spending whenever he was not on a government payroll—it was not long ago that Boutin was blaming all of Alaska’s economic woes on Bill Walker.

It also wasn’t so long ago that he was objecting to the wide variety of state enterprises.

“Moreover the state remains in the missile launching business, the railroad business, the home mortgage business, the rental housing business, the campground business, the marine freight business, the student loan business, and on and on; real dollar spending cuts would have reduced the size of government,” Boutin wrote in early 2018.

In the past, the beleaguered Boutin complained about losing a senior citizens sales tax exemption as a Juneau resident. He has also often said that the state is producing less than it should, while offering no solutions except to avoid taxes.

“There is no nonviolent way more certain to destroy Alaska society and culture than an income tax concurrent with the Permanent Fund Dividend,” he wrote in May 2017 in the Empire. “Taxing Alaskans who produce goods and services the world wants to buy while handing out that same several hundred million dollars to everyone regardless of effort and initiative would deal a blow much more severe than has the long-expected decline in oil production.”

Boutin claims the $441,000 contract is not a $441,000 contract, but a monthly $8,000 contract that could reach $441,000 if it is renewed every month.

Boutin says the monthly contract can be canceled at any time. That should happen now.

Fields and Kreiss-Tomkins wrote a second letter to the AIDEA executive Thursday to say he failed to justify a no-bid deal. They asked if no other firms in Alaska could provide the same service and why AIDEA did not seek competitive bids, which would allow Penney to show his superiority.

AIDEA regulations require that a no-bid deal must not be “arbitrary, capricious or prompted by corruption.” The agency is ignoring its regulations.

Dermot Cole7 Comments