Berkowitz defends ML&P bid process
We now know which other companies placed bids to buy Anchorage's Municipal Light and Power -- before the city selected Chugach Electric for the deal in December.
The documents became public after a Freedom of Information Act request by the Anchorage Daily News.
According to the newspaper, some of those companies are questioning Mayor Ethan Berkowitz's process.
The other bidders include:
- Golden Valley Electric Association
- Avista Corp.
- CIRI Energy, LLC.
- Ares EIF Management, LLC
- Matanuska Electric Association
All five of the companies submitted bids along with Chugach Electric between November and December of last year. But the municipality chose Chugach shortly after, leaving some companies wondering whether the bidding process was just for show, according to the ADN report.
"You sometimes wondered if they were just stalking horses -- if it was always going to go Chugach. It appears they had done an awful lot of negotiation back and forth, and we did not have that opportunity," the Chief Executive of Golden Valley Electric Association told ADN reporter Devin Kelly.
In an interview Wednesday, KTVA asked Berkowitz for his response to the assertions by the companies that the bidding process was less than transparent.
"Everybody who put an offer forward knew what the time frames were, we had discussions with them, we had a data room that was open in October, and they'd had earlier conversations with our financing team, so people were well aware of the time frame we were on-- knowing that everything had to go on the ballot in April," Berkowitz said. "Which means that it had to be approved by the Assembly in January, which is why there was that accelerated time frame."
A member of the Chugach Electric board, Judy Brady, resigned last month, citing concerns about the process.
"As you know I support your decision to review whether or not ML&P should be sold to Chugach. As you are also aware, I am also troubled by the process," Brady wrote in a resignation letter to Berkowitz dated January 25.
"Two nights ago the Anchorage Assembly voted to put the question on the April ballot," Brady continued. "This vote was taken after a series of executive sessions by the Assembly, in which the details of such a sale were discussed and decided."
"I encouraged her to make her concerns public. I think that’s part of the discussion that we should have," Berkowitz said of the issue. "The ML&P board really isn’t authorized to see, or wasn’t authorized to have access to the subject matter of the non-disclosure agreements," Berkowitz added.
"I appreciate the frustration that’s part of that, but these are very legitimate concerns, and you know, there’s that balance between protecting the privacy of the companies that bid-- and they have reasons for keeping their information confidential-- they don’t want to disclose things that might hurt them in a commercial context, as opposed to the public’s right to know," Berkowitz said.
The ballot initiative that will appear before voters next month would authorize the sale of ML&P to Chugach for "approximately $1 billion."
Berkowitz acknowledged that the final dollar amount could change after the election.
"I think it’s comparable to when somebody puts an offer in on a house, you say ‘okay, I’m trying to buy the house, but I’ve done some due diligence and I found out that it needs a roof, I’m going to lower the cost accordingly,'" Berkowitz said. "I don’t think there’s going to be substantial movement, I think on balance, it’s going to be pretty close to those numbers."
Berkowitz noted that there will be more opportunities for public input before a final deal is sealed.
The municipality is holding a town hall meeting on the proposed sale on March 5 at the Loussac Library.
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.