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TBPA: Nicholls and Christian respond

 

Brian O'Connor

Thomas Bay Power Authority board member Clay Hammer, accompanied by borough clerk Kim Lane and Police Chief Doug McCloskey, reads a resolution issued by the board placing TBPA office staff, including Rhonda Christian (seated) on administrative leave Friday. The TBPA commission will make a final determination of their employment status at a July 9 meeting.

Hammer and Wrangell Clerk Kim Lane, accompanied by Wrangell Police Chief Doug McCloskey arrived at the TBPA office headquarters about 3 p.m., when a Wrangell Sentinel reporter was interviewing Nicholls. The interview was the first notification of the imposition of administrative leave, Nicholls and Christian said.

Nicholls disputed claims by the Thomas Bay Power Commission that there had been a lack of communication between commissioners and staff prior to the June 6 special meeting.

"At that time, both Robert (Larson) and James (Stough) said 'Let the city clerk handle the minutes and recording,'" he said. "That was the last communication I've had with any of them."

Hammer presented printed copies of the resolution to Christian and Nicholls. Christian called the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and placed them on speaker phone.

After speaking with IBEW, Christian handed over keys and a chopped-up credit card.

"I've done nothing wrong," Christian said at one point.

"The investigation will show that," a union official responded.

Prior to the interview, Nicholls provided the Sentinel with a printed E-mail to Larson which outlined several points of contention, including the removal of commissioner John Jensen from the TBPA website dating back to January 2014. 

"Rhonda (Christian) made several attempts to form a quorum at the request of President Stough," the e-mail reads in part. "Some commissioners did not even see fit to respond; so, no quorum was ever established through this office."

The Thomas Bay budget has been prepared since February, but former president Stough "chose not to include it in the agenda," according to Nicholls' e-mail.

Commissioners have not issued any directives to TBPA staff, Nicholls said. Financial reports have been given to former commission secretary Dave Galla that notice was given to Stough prior to the June meetings. City clerks were instructed by Nelson to cover the meeting.

Christian has been absent from meetings with good reason, Nicholls' e-mail reads.

"Although Rhonda has historically been the recording secretary for the board, the stress of the chaos during this time of change is taking its toll on her to the point of affecting her mental and physical health; therefore, I instructed her to no longer function as the board secretary and turn over those duties to the named Secretary/Treasurer," the message continues.

Nicholls said he wasn't disobeying requests from the board to attend board meetings because without Jensen, the board lacks the membership necessary to form a quorum, which is set by TBPC by-laws at four members, and so those meetings were illegitimate.

"I don't think any of their actions are justified because there's a person acting like a commissioner who's not one," he said.

Jensen's term expired in December 2013, and he was reappointed, according to a list of appointments on the Petersburg borough website.

Meetings with Jensen counted towards a quorum "are of no value," Nicholls added. "Any motion he's made or seconded is of no value."

Staff typically receive appointment notifications from the appropriate borough clerk, and no notification had been sent in John Jensen's case, Nicholls said.

The omission of the TBPA commission from the original appointment - listed in the Dec. 16 Petersburg borough assembly minutes only as a reappointment to the SEAPA board - and the minutes was clerical error and did not affect John Jensen's status on the board, O'Rear said. Other TBPA commissioners have characterized commission appointments as at-will appointments, which would not require a reappointment.

Nicholls also declined to provide TBPA officials with keys to the cabinet containing the personnel files and said doing so could create a personal legal liability for him, as well as a possible violation of the Health Insurance Privacy Protection Act.

After Christian and Nicholls departed the office, officials locked it. It will remain closed pending a final determination of Christian and Nicholl's status at the July 9 meeting.

"This is totally unnecessary," Christian said prior to leaving.

 

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