From Richard Mauer in Anchorage ---
When U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller and wife Kathleen applied for their low-income resident fishing, hunting and trapping licenses in 1995, they were homeowners with a mortgage and embarking on an extensive remodel of their Hillside property.
Since our initial reports on Monday in the Politics blog and Wednesday in the print newspaper, we‘ve gotten files on the Miller property from the state recorder‘s office and two city offices -- property appraisal and the building safety division, which issues building permits and inspects the work that was done.
In 1995, residents who qualified for the low-income fish and game license paid $5 instead of the regular $55 fee. Non-residents paid $300.
The Alaska resident low-income license requires a person to have been a permanent Alaska resident for the previous 12 months. The person must also either be on welfare or have an annual family gross income of less than $8,200 for the year before applying for the license.
The public records raise new questions about the indigent status of the Millers, who, before they got the low-income licenses, were able to obtain a mortgage and start the remodel that would more than double the size of the home.
Miller was a second-year Yale law school student in 1994 when he and Kathleen Miller came to Alaska.
According to a resume he provided the state when he applied for a judgeship in 2004, he worked as an intern from July to August 1994 in an Anchorage law firm. Then, from August to January 1995, he said he was an intern for the state law department in Alaska and in New Haven, Conn., where Yale is located.
He didn‘t say in the judicial application how he divided his time in the state internship between Alaska and Connecticut, but in any event he returned to school for the 1995 spring semester before getting his law degree that May. A campaign spokesman said Kathleen Miller remained in Alaska during that time, and that Joe Miller made several flights back to the state.
On Sept. 19, 1994, Joe and Kathleen Miller bought a modest Hillside ranch home. Public records don‘t say what he paid, but in 1994 the city appraised the home and its acre lot at $98,500. The original house, built in 1982, was about 1,000 square feet, according to the assessor‘s office.
A Miller campaign spokesman, Randy Desoto, said earlier this week that the home was purchased with the sale of some of the farmland Miller owned in Kansas, his state of birth.
But the public records also show Miller and his wife took out a $92,000 mortgage from the California company Countrywide to buy the Hillside property. The recorder‘s office document, a deed of trust showing that the property was collateral for the loan, doesn‘t contain the actual promissory note; the payments, interest rate and term aren‘t available from public documents.
But the nine-page deed of trust had a rider showing the principal would fall due in a balloon payment seven years later. The rider also said that if the Millers stayed current in their payments, they could essentially turn the seven-year mortgage into a standard 30-year one.
Almost immediately, the records show, the Millers started planning a major addition.
A handwritten note in the file by city appraiser Shan Forshee dated Jan. 9, 1995, said she was told by the homeowner that city officials had rejected a building permit in 1994 because the building was too close to the property line.
“Storage sheds to be removed before house can sell, per very unhappy homeowner,“ Forshee wrote.
At City Hall Friday, Forshee said she didn‘t remember in incident or the Millers but believed she made the notes after inspecting the property.
On April 27, 1995 -- three months before obtaining their low-income licenses -- the Millers successfully applied for a building permit, promising to tear down the sheds. An accompanying survey showed the sheds were built in a utility easement on the north property line.
The building permit, signed by Joe Miller, was issued May 15, 1995, for an $800 fee plus $520 for plan reviews. The value of the addition, which was like a new two-story home with a bedroom, two offices and a family room, was listed at just over $110,000.
Miller started work in June 1995 as an associate attorney in an Anchorage law firm. He listed his annual salary at about $70,000.
The public records don‘t show when the addition was begun or when the new structure became habitable. A photograph in the assessors file, dated December 1997, shows the new two-story structure appearing to be complete. The city granted a certificate of occupancy on July 10, 1998.
The assessed value of the property jumped from $93,100 in 1997 to $201,800 in 1998.
Miller became a state magistrate in Tok in 1998. He and Kathleen sold the Hillside home in 2003, about a year after they had moved to Fairbanks. He never again purchased a low-income fish and game license, though she did one more time, in 1996, according to state records.