Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka
An attempt to remove Angoon Mayor Albert Howard from office appears to have failed, based on preliminary election returns reported by City Clerk Lillian Woodbury.
The unofficial returns from Tuesday’s recall election show 50 people voting yes on recalling Howard, and 78 people voting no. About 430 people live in Angoon, which is on western Admiralty Island.
The recall petition accused Howard of exceeding his authority as mayor by entering into a deal to develop hydro power projects on Ruth Lake and Scenery Lake in Thomas Bay.
Angoon has been dealing with Cascade Creek LLC, and maintaining federal permits to develop the hydro projects at Ruth and Scenery lakes.
The recall language said those permits cost as much as $3 million each, and that parts of the agreement Angoon struck with Cascade Creek could result in “substantial financial obligations and liabilities” for the length of the agreements – some 50 years.
Earlier this year, the Angoon Council voted to freeze all action on the Thomas Bay projects and asked its attorney to try and void any contracts with Cascade Creek. The private company holds a preliminary permit for another Hydro Electric Project at Swan Lake in Thomas Bay. Cascade formerly held permits for Ruth and Scenery as well, but has instead been working under contract to help Angoon develop those sites.
Reached before the polls closed on Tuesday, Howard says a city council resolution in 2008 authorized him to act in the city’s best interests and that the action he took is in the best interest of Angoon.
“All it is, is a source of revenue for our community and community members so we can create jobs,” Howard said. “Angoon’s been at 80 percent unemployment for three years. The council has been doing a really good job at trying to figure out what we need to do to take the community into the future. This is one step of many steps.”
Howard said he was willing to step aside without an argument if the vote had not gone in his favor. But he also said he hoped if the recall failed, that those opposed to the deals with Cascade Creek would let the city move forward without opposition.
That’s not likely, says Maxine Thompson, a former Angoon mayor. Earlier on Tuesday, she told KCAW that she’ll continue to advocate against Angoon’s involvement in the Ruth Lake and Scenery Lake projects if the recall was unsuccessful.
“We have to,” she said. “We have to maintain our position and say we oppose this because he refuses to go through the proper procedures. And the proper procedure is to disclose everything.”
Thompson says the deals with Cascade Creek happened without enough public involvement and that it distracts from a hydro project at Thayer Lake she says could help Angoon more.
The results of Tuesday’s election are not finalized until questioned ballots are counted. The number of questioned ballots was not immediately available. The election is expected to be canvassed on Friday and certified on Monday.
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