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Commission Considers Campaign-finance Fines for Fairbanks Mayoral Candidates

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City of Fairbanks
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Members of the Alaska Public Offices Commission are deliberating over the case of Fairbanks Mayor John Eberhart, who’s accused of violating state campaign-finance laws during his run for mayor last year. The commission was scheduled to hear another case Friday involving Eberhart’s opponent in the Oct. 1st mayoral election.

Commissioners were scheduled to hear the case for and against Eberhart over about 90 minutes Thursday afternoon. But arguments and back-and-forth by both sides took up most of the afternoon. And by the end of the day, the commissioners recessed the meeting without a final decision.

The commissioners are considering the APOC staff recommendation that Eberhart be required to pay about $4,000 in fines and another $384 in compensation to his employer, the Tanana Chiefs Conference, for use of a telephone, computer and copying machine for his campaign.

Eberhart also is accused of accepting a $500 donation from Café de Paris Catering Company. Eberhart argues he was not aware that the company a type of corporation that state law prohibits from directly donating to campaigns. He says his use of Tanana Chiefs office equipment was inadvertent, incidental and minimal.   

The commissioners are likely to issue their opinion on the case today.

They’re also scheduled to reconsider the case against Vivian Stiver, Eberhart’s opponent in the mayoral election. Stiver also is accused of using a Fairbanks corporation’s office resources for her campaign. APOC staff say Stiver used the premises of the Ranch Motel to collect campaign contributions.

The staff recommended Stiver and the owner of the motel both be fined $1,300. But the commissioners reduced the fines to $650, because so little money was collected at the motel.

But they’re now scheduled to consider an argument for further reducing the fines by Ranch Motel owner Donna Gilbert. Gilbert says in a letter to the commission that she was unable to attend at a Nov. 20 hearing on the issue because APOC misinformed her about the date of the proceeding.

Gilbert wrote that she wants to argue that the fines are excessive because she’s been collecting campaign donations at the motel for years, and that even though APOC staff were aware of that they never informed her that that’s illegal. Gilbert says she would not have done it if she knew it was against the law.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.