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Kookesh recall effort in early stages

From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage ---

Some people in the area of Prince of Wales Island want to recall Angoon Democratic Sen. Albert Kookesh after this week’s finding by the Legislature’s Ethics Committee that he violated the ethics act.

They’re working on getting the 100 signatures required to submit an application to the division of elections. Sponsor Myla Poelstra of Edna Bay said this morning she’d gathered 37 signatures in her community and believes signatures are also being collected in Point Baker, Port Protection and Naukati.

The recall process is tough after those first 100 signatures, especially in a massive and sparsely populated Senate district that stretches almost from Bethel to deep Southeast Alaska. Sponsors would next need to get the signatures of 1,213 registered voters in the district, representing 10 percent of the votes cast when the seat was up for election in 2008.

If they succeed, the Department of Law would then review their grounds for ousting Kookesh. There are four grounds for recall in Alaska: lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties, and corruption.

The next step would be for the state to issue a recall petition, at which point the sponsors would have to collect 3,028 signatures, or 25 percent of those who voted in 2008.

If that petition is approved by state officials, a recall election would be scheduled. Kookesh was elected in 2008 with 69 percent of the vote in the general election.

Poelstra said she and a commercial fisherman from Point Baker are the main people behind the effort. She’s the local postmaster, and operates a lodge and general store. Poelstra is also chair of the “Sealaska Response Committee,” and has been active in opposing the bill in Congress that seeks to grant Sealaska tens of thousands of acres of federal land.

The recall sponsors assert that Kookesh had a conflict of interest and misused his position to the benefit of Sealaska.

The Legislature’s ethics committee found probable cause that Kookesh broke state ethics law by implying that he would deny state funding to Craig if the City Council there opposed the Sealaska bill. Kookesh, who is Sealaska’s board chair, has said his remarks were misconstrued. He’s been directed to write a public letter of apology to the Craig City Council.

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