Here's why I wrote that the state laundered no-bid Penney contract through AIDEA
Some readers asked about my assertion that the Dunleavy administration laundered the money for the Clark Penney no-bid contract through the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.
I make that claim because AIDEA’s executive director, who signed the contract, admitted to board members that the work was not part of AIDEA, he wasn’t keeping track of Penney’s work and he didn’t know who was monitoring.
The main facts are in two emails that Tom Boutin, executive director of AIDEA, wrote on May 9, two days after the first public disclosure of the AIDEA contract with the grandson of a major Dunleavy donor. The Dunleavy administration decided to funnel money from the commerce department to AIDEA for the contract.
These emails, produced by the state in response to a public records request by the Anchorage Daily News, have not received the attention they deserve by the press in Alaska.
“You may receive or have received inquiries regarding the contract with Mr. Clark Penney that AIDEA signed on March 20,” Boutin wrote to members of the AIDEA board May 9.
“This contract was not taken to the board for approval nor did it need to be, so you have not seen the contract. The contract pertains to Mr. Penney’s work as Managing Director, of the New Industry Development Team, which is not part of AIDEA. To the best of my knowledge the AIDEA board has not been briefed on the 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.”
On that same day, Boutin wrote to Julie Anderson, the commerce commissioner, that he thought the governor’s office was supervising Penney’s work. He said he told the governor’s press secretary, Matt Shuckerow, to pretend not to know about the contract.
“Also, today Matt Shuckerow called me about press calls he is receiving, and he mentioned that the team is in commerce. I told him I thought it is in the Gov's office, and we each said we are not sure we know. But no matter,” Boutin wrote to Anderson. (Shuckerow was right. The “team” was working under Anderson in the commerce department.)
“To date the press calls are few and far between, and entirely manageable. I told Matt that if I were him I would tell the press there are 128 boards and commissions (or how many there are now), and he cannot possibly know of all the contract s and projects of every one of them; this is an AIDEA contract and he could tell the press to call AIDEA,” Boutin wrote to Anderson.
This was about an hour-and-a-half after he wrote to AIDEA board members that Penney’s work was not part of AIDEA, though Boutin had signed the contract.
By laundering the money through AIDEA, the state bypassed the requirements to seek competitive bids with the Penney contract, which could be worth up to $441,000 by mid-2022. Penney receives $8,000 a month under the AIDEA contract.
The reason for bypassing competitive bids and giving the work to Penney, according to this AIDEA document, was that with competition there would be “delay in implementing Governor’s New Industry Development Team and delay in achieving tangible results to the Governor’s ‘Open for Business’ strategy.”
AIDEA extended the contract for the fiscal year that began July 1, but Boutin wrote in emails that it was not his decision. It was to be made by the commerce department.
On June 27, Boutin wrote, “I would imagine that we are to extend it but it is not my call. I have forwarded the info—as soon as I received it—to the department.”
He also said, “The sole source documentation in particular, and potentially the contract can be rewritten in any way we see fit.”