From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --
Assemblyman Paul Honeman accused Mayor Dan Sullivan today of “cronyism” and “wrongdoing” following reports that the city will offer the outgoing port director a $60,000 consulting contract.
Honeman, who is running for mayor, said he delivered a two-page letter questioning the details of the consulting job today to City Hall. The mayor recently announced that Sheffield would step down as port director Jan. 15 but would be paid to serve as liaison with federal agencies on the troubled expansion project.
“I believe this is cronyism at its worst, or at its best, if you’re on the receiving end,” Honeman told reporters at his Midtown campaign headquarters.
Sullivans plans to release a statement responding to the accusation today, said city spokeswoman Sarah Erkmann. He would not be available for an interview, she said.
“There’s no contract yet, but the proposal is to pay Sheffield for one year (only one year) to help with the transition to a new director,” Erkmann wrote in an email.
“Nothing is finalized. I’m sure you can gather the political nature of the press release,” she wrote.
UPDATE: Erkmann sent a one-line statement from Sullivan, in response to questions about Honeman's claims:
“Per the usual process, details of the proposed one-year contract will be provided to Assembly members before the item is up for discussion and vote," Sullivan said.
The salvo by Honeman is just the beginning. Voters are in for a long, bruising march along the 2012 campaign trail as local and state politicians –- all but one legislator must run for reelection this year -- battle for jobs.
Honeman is looking to gain traction after finishing sixth, with less than 5 percent of the vote, in a crowded 2009 mayoral race. The former police officer has targeted Sullivan on the port project before, demanding in November that Sheffield be fired.
Cost overruns and construction problems have plagued port expansion efforts. The estimated bill for the project, as envisioned by Sheffield, has grown from $360 million in 2005 to about $1 billion.
The city has asked the Legislature for $350 million to fund a less ambitious project.
The port announced Sheffield’s plan to retire on Dec. 29, a day after a reelection fund-raiser held for Sullivan at Sheffield’s home.
“It begs the question, first of all, is this some sort of golden handshake or golden parachute at the taxpayers’ expense of a person who is responsible for what is ultimately right now viewed as one of the biggest boondoggles in Alaska’s history?” Honeman said.
Sheffield’s supporters have said problems at the port were largely beyond his control and that the former governor has been unfairly saddled with the blame.
“The project has faced challenges but we have worked hard over the last two years to get the management and construction back on the correct course,” Sheffield said in a written statement Dec. 29.
Erkmann, The mayor’s spokeswoman, said she could not provide a copy of Sheffield’s proposed consulting contract because it has not yet been completed.
“That said, the Assembly (and any other interested parties) will have ample time to review it once it’s finished,” she wrote.
Mayoral candidate Paul Honeman today is questioning the proposed $60,000 consulting contract offered to outgoing Port Director Bill Sheffield. The East Anchorage Assemblyman has planned an 11 a.m. news conference at his campaign HQ.
I asked Sarah Erkmann, spokesman for Mayor Dan Sullivan, about the status of the contract.
"There's no contract yet, but the proposal is to pay Sheffield for one year (only one year) to help with the transition to a new director," Erkmann wrote in an email.
"Nothing is finalized. I'm sure you can gather the political nature of this press release," she wrote.