My Eagle River colleague, Bill Starr, is rapidly becoming my favorite fellow member of the Anchorage Assembly. Not because we necessarily agree on things, or that we have started hanging out together, but because he has developed a penchant for advancing issues that draw lots of attention. My preceding post about his bear resolution, for example, has generated record traffic despite the fact that the Assembly has no jurisdiction over wildlife management!
Mr. Starr’s latest foray, calling for an audit of Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) between the Administration and various labor unions, appears to have achieved similar distinction with coverage in both the local paper and on television. What is surprising to me is Mr. Starr’s apparent lack of understanding about the subject. Here’s how I explained it at the October 28 meeting:
In reviewing Mr. Starr’s submissions to the Assembly it appears he believes in a strict interpretation of Title 3 of the municipal code – specifically AMC 3.70.130 – that would require Assembly ratification of every MOA between management and labor. I don’t know a lot about Mr. Starr’s work history but I would guess he has limited exposure to collective bargaining units and labor contracts. I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve been around them enough to know that these minor matters are best handled by Labor Relations professionals, which is how it works with my employer, the Administration and every other similar entity I’ve encountered.
More puzzling to me was Mr. Starr’s apparent desire to limit the audit of the MOA process to the past four years. Here’s a brief e-mail exchange we had on the subject (in reverse chronological order):
From: Bill Starr [Bill@Starrak.com]
Sent: Saturday, October 25, 2008 2:11 PM
To: Flynn, Patrick P.
No “deliberations” with committee yet, but all have seen what you now have. (Abbott, Birch, Philips, Weddleton, Guitterrez, Starr are the committee. I am chair.) Primary consults and research with Julia, Matt, and Mike Abbott, plus Pete Raiskums (I meet with him last Monday) has resulted in this AR. My committee will have a meeting this coming Wednesday to discuss this and assembly action from Tuesday.
I would rather not supply all documents before Tuesday as to not influence Pete’s investigation. He has seen them all and provided more, but I choose only these on Julia’s recommendation to illustrate the breakdown in process.
I asked the clerk to research any contractual amendments that came before the assembly since 2000. She found none in 4 hours of searching. This appears to start in 2004. I have contract amendments dated in June/July 2008.
This issue was brought to my attention last Friday. It was based on a freedom of information request complied with by Jim Reeves in mid September. Dan Coffey and Jennifer Johnston brought this to my attention. I reviewed this item with Matt on Wednesday and placed it on the addendum Thursday PM after consult with the administration.
—– Original Message —–
From: “Flynn, Patrick P.” <FlynnPP@ci.anchorage.ak.us>
To: “Bill Starr” <Bill@Starrak.com>
Sent: Saturday, October 25, 2008 1:53 PM
I read through the materials you provided – thank you for that. I have a few questions:
1. AM 746-2008 (page 1, lines 8 and 9) notes that several assembly members [asked you] to review various materials and provide analysis, comment and recommendation. Did that process include any discussion or deliberation by the Audit Committee?
2. Later AM 746-2008 (page 1, line 37) reads, “Not all documents compiled to date are included in the attached sampling.” Are you able to provide other documents you have compiled?
3. Along the same lines, how far back in history does the compiled documentation stretch? More specifically, are we looking at a practice unique to this administration, a practice unique to Mr. Otto’s term as Director of Employee Relations or a practice employed by multiple administrations?
Thanks again for providing this background. I look forward to any additional information you can provide.
From: Bill Starr [Bill@Starrak.com]
Sent: Saturday, October 25, 2008 10:48 AM
To: !MAS Assembly Members
In case you are asked about this pending addendum item.
Bill Starr, Chair
Municipal Audit Committee
It has been suggested to me that Mr. Starr’s true motivation for instigating this audit was political in nature, perhaps to cast a negative light on Mayor Begich as he campaigns for higher office. While I found Mr. Starr’s discussion of the topic a tad too close to righteous indignation and I was troubled that every MOA included in Mr. Starr’s submission dated from 2005 to 2008, I try to avoid the practice of questioning someone else’s motives. Instead, I choose to focus on the broader policy question.
Part of the Assembly’s role is to monitor the activities of the executive branch and, where appropriate, clarify policy to ensure compliance with applicable laws. To that end, this audit is a good idea so the Assembly amended Mr. Starr’s resolution to expand the parameters of the research back to 1990. In other words, we’ll look at how several Administrations employed the MOA process. From there we can determine whether to place limitations on the practice (for example, if a MOA would affect more than X number of employees or have a cost exceeding $Y per year it would then require Assembly ratification). This is an appropriate course for the Assembly to take and the Administration supported the approach. I’m just glad my new favorite colleague didn’t think of it first, thereby giving me an interesting topic on which to write!
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