AIDEA head defends no-bid contract for grandson of major Dunleavy supporter

Tom Boutin, executive director of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, fields questions during a House Commerce, Community & Economic Development Finance Subcommittee meeting in the state Capitol on Tuesday. Boutin defended the no-bid contract with economic consultant Clark Penney, grandson of Bob Penney, a major campaign donor to a group that supported Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s election. (Skip Gray/KTOO)

The grandson of a top campaign supporter of Gov. Mike Dunleavy was the only person who could provide economic development advice to the state for $8,000 per month, according to the leader of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, or AIDEA.

AIDEA Executive Director Tom Boutin hired Clark Penney’s company, Penney Capital, for a no-bid consulting contract for AIDEA, the state’s economic development arm. Penney’s grandfather Bob Penney spent $300,000 supporting Dunleavy’s election.

Clark Penney also is listed as a financial adviser at a California-based firm, Cypress Wealth Services.

Sitka Democratic Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins questioned whether to have a no-bid contract when there are many firms in the state that work in economic development.

“I think that’s what’s been problematic for a lot of Alaskans and certainly me, because when government does a no-bid, sole-source contract, it’s basically saying, ‘Only the person that’s contracted for has the skill set or expertise for what we’re looking at, in sort of the broad realm of economic development,’” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “And that’s quite a statement.”

Boutin said paying roughly $400,000 over four years isn’t much, compared with other authority contracts. And he said no other firms would have bid for it.

“We couldn’t duplicate it for twice the money,” Boutin said. “And maybe there are people there that say we couldn’t duplicate it for three times the money.”

State officials said Penney has worked on projects related to the mariculture industry, which grows marine life; international air cargo at the Anchorage and Fairbanks airports; and projects under the federal Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.