Dunleavy looks for development workers who are 'comfortable with ambiguity'

The Dunleavy administration is looking to hire someone at $60,132 a year who can handle ambiguity, working on a development project managed by Clark Penney, the recipient of a no-bid state contract worth up to $441,000.

“This position is with the Alaska Development Team, preparing and presenting commercial research to support business growth and expansion in Alaska, supporting development managers across all sectors,” the job description says.

On the list of skills needed for the job, the commerce department includes this gem: “Comfortable dealing with ambiguity and ability to work independently.”

One reader of this job announcement said the line is ambiguous, but “Pretty sure this is code for ‘we don’t know what we are doing.’”

This is the second job opening in recent weeks for the Alaska Development Team in the commerce department that includes the ambiguous entry.

In early September, the commerce department advertised for a “development manager,” a job posting that also included the line: “Comfortable dealing with ambiguity and ability to work independently.”

The purpose of that $89,748-a-year management job is “to expand business opportunities for existing Alaska businesses and to attract new business to the state” in everything from timber and agriculture to the military, oil and gas and tourism.

To lead the development campaign, the administration gave a no-bid contract last spring to Clark Penney, the grandson of Bob Penney, a man who invested $350,000 last year in helping Gov. Mike Dunleavy win the election.

Penney is listed on his invoices to the state variously as “Managing Director, Alaska Development Team” or “Managing Director, New Industry Development Team.”

The state money for the Penney contract was laundered by the commerce department through the Alaska Industry Development and Export Authority.

By claiming that competitive bids would have unnecessarily delayed the effort to get new businesses going, and doing the contract through AIDEA it became harder for the arrangement to be disclosed to the public. The money should have stayed in the commerce department and the contract should have been open to competition.

Here are some of the emails that show the ambiguous origins of the contract and its extension.

The commerce department chose Clark Penney as the contractor, but someone decided the contract should be issued through AIDEA, perhaps to avoid competitive bids and limit public disclosure.

The executive director of AIDEA, who signed the contract, said later that he didn’t know anything about the work Penney was doing or where and that the new industry development team under Penney “is not part of AIDEA.”

“To the best of my knowledge the AIDEA board has not been briefed on this team (nor have I by the way, but that is not something I will say outside of our board; certainly I could have asked for a briefing and received one),” AIDEA Executive Director Tom Boutin wrote May 9, more than a month-and-a-half after he signed the Penney contract.

But the monthly development reports that Penney still sends to the state are directed to AIDEA and signed by Boutin. So far, $176,000 has been authorized for the AIDEA contract that Boutin said “pertains to Mr. Penney’s work as managing director of the New Industry Development Team, which is not part of AIDEA.”

The state has never explained why it chose to use money from the commerce department to give a no-bid contract under AIDEA. At a minimum, this deserves a hearing and a legislative investigation.

Speaking to Republicans in Fairbanks recently, Dunleavy said he has an “economic head-hunting team” that is supposed to go Outside and drum up new businesses for Alaska.

“What we’ve done is we put together in my office, working out of the governor’s office, an economic head-hunting team. What we do is we send folks out, these are good smart, sharp individuals, to talk to investors about investing in the state of Alaska,” he said.

The state is not doing much of anything to inform the public about what Penney and the rest of the team are doing.

On one spot of the commerce department website, the only reference to the team is this: “Alaska is open for business. For more information, contact the commissioner's office.”

The commissioner’s office page says, “To access Alaska Development Team resources and assistance, please contact the commissioner’s office by phone or email. The Alaska Development Team is ready to discuss your existing growth oriented business, your business that desires to enter and expand in Alaska, and your investment ready commercial and industrial projects.”

Dermot Cole5 Comments