A Californian that Gov. Sean Parnell had tapped to serve on a high-profile state board has withdrawn his name from consideration. The decision came before a legislative hearing where the nominee was expected to be questioned on his residency status, his tax records, and his ties to the oil industry.
Dennis Mandell announced he no longer wanted a seat on the State Assessment Review Board with a simple e-mail to the Governor’s Office: “Due to the political nature of this appointment I withdraw my name thank you.”
Mandell is a registered California voter, and legislators from both parties made public statements this week that appointing someone who resides in another state to an Alaska board could violate the law.
At a press availability Thursday, Gov. Sean Parnell said he did not ask Mandell to pull his name, but that confirmation would have been difficult.
“You know, he’s an incredibly professional and qualified individual. Everybody who met with him thought that,” said Parnell. “But the politics of naming an out-of-state certainly played into this.”
Parnell stood by his decision to appoint a non-resident, arguing that the statute limiting appointments to quasi-judicial boards only to Alaskans is unconstitutional.
The State Assessment Review Board is in charge of resolving disputes over the value of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and the number they decide on is used to settle property tax questions. For every billion dollars the board says the pipeline is worth, oil companies pay out $20 million to the municipalities along the pipeline’s route.
When asked if making and acting on a judgment on the residency law encroached on the judiciary’s authority, Parnell was operating within his powers.
“I will always stand on the Constitution,” said Parnell. “I will always act to interpret it in a way that I can faithfully execute this job.”
Democrats in the Legislature have been especially opposed to Mandell’s nomination. On top of the residency issue, they raised concerns about Mandell’s career in the oil industry and about his tax records. On Thursday morning, Rep. Andy Josephson, an Anchorage Democrat, released information that the State of California has suspended Mandell’s business license since 2009 for failure to pay corporate income taxes.
Josephson says his office learned about the suspension through a “simple Google search,” and that he feels the Parnell administration did not fully vet Mandell.
“Someone at Boards and Commissions have looked into — could have done a Google search! – and looked into this and said, ‘Boy, Mr. Mandell, we love you, be we are a little concern we’re going to have some pushback on the California factor, and now we see you haven’t paid your corporate income tax, when this very job is about imposing actually a property and equipment tax,” said Josephson in an interview. “That should have been a red flag.”
A Parnell spokesperson says the governor was unaware of the tax issue. Mandell has said the suspension was issued in error because he has not operated a business in California in years.
Parnell’s other appointee to the State Assessment Review Board is an Alaska resident and is still going through the confirmation process. Bernie Washington, of Anchorage, answered questions at the first of two confirmation hearings on Thursday. He has served as the chief financial officer of Alaska Public Media, the parent company of KSKA, KAKM and the Alaska Public Radio Network, since 2010. Before that, Washington worked for Arco and ConocoPhillips.
This story has been updated to reflect comments from Dennis Mandell.
The Legislature will vote on Parnell’s nominees on April 11.