Board of Fisheries Chair Responds to Residency Questions
Anchorage-based former judge spent roughly $10,000 in state funds for lodging over past three years
JUNEAU – After reappointment by Governor Sean Parnell and glowing recommendations throughout his final hearing Monday, Board of Fisheries Chairman Karl Johnstone is poised for reconfirmation.
But he would hold the position from thousands of miles away.
Johnstone, who is legally an Alaskan resident and owns a home above Potter Marsh, spends his winters in Arizona. He said he flies to Anchorage periodically to attend board meetings, but instead of staying in his South Anchorage home, state expense records show the former Superior Court judge has spent roughly $10,000 over the past three years for lodging in Downtown hotels.
“I don’t like the idea of working until ten or 11 o’clock and then having to drive back to my home on the Hillside,” Johnstone said Monday during his final reconfirmation hearing. “It’s about a 45-minute drive in the winter.”
Johnstone told legislators he votes in local elections, receives a PFD, applies for resident hunting and fishing licenses and generally considers himself an Alaskan. While the state administrative code forbids lodging reimbursements for board and commission members who live within 50 miles meetings, state officials said the rule is flexible.
“It’s basically a best-interest determination, where it may be impractical for someone to drive home if it’s late,” said Kevin Brooks, administrative services director for the Department of Fish and Game.
Brooks said Johnstone wasn’t the only board member to have received the benefit over the years.
“People can disagree with it, I guess, with the policy call,” Brooks said. “It’s certainly legal and I think a case can be made for why it’s in the best interests to do it.”