Anchorage to audit Begich's spending before he moved to Senate

ANCHORAGE — Leaders of two camps on the Anchorage Assembly have agreed to a compromise proposal to spend $50,000 on an independent audit of some financial accounting during the last months of former Mayor Mark Begich's administration in 2008.

Assemblyman Dan Coffey, frequent critic of Begich, and Patrick Flynn, Assembly chairman and a frequent Begich supporter, agreed to terms that Flynn said are aimed at "de-politicizing" the audit.

But the audit would still investigate alleged irregularities, such as contentions there were unreported revenue shortfalls, inaccurate reporting of fund balances and spending that went beyond appropriated funds.

The resolution says one outcome of the audit could be "potential referral to appropriate authorities" of its findings.

The resolution will be up for consideration by the full Assembly at its Tuesday night meeting at the Loussac Library.

The push for an audit followed a 10-page report sent to Assembly members Jan. 21 by municipal attorney Dennis Wheeler, who questions the accuracy of some statements made by the Begich administration in its waning months. Wheeler wrote a longer investigative report on the same topic in November, and the most recent report raised more questions about financial accounting of the Begich administration.

Begich resigned as mayor on Jan. 3, 2009, to become Alaska's new U.S. senator. The stock market, and city investments, were crashing in the last few months of his mayoral term. Less than two weeks after acting mayor Matt Claman took over in January 2009, Claman reported a $17 million deficit in the 2009 city budget. Some Assembly members, and Dan Sullivan, who became mayor last July, say Begich and his top managers were not candid about city finances at the end of 2008 as the Assembly approved four big labor contracts and the 2009 budget.

Begich has described Wheeler's investigation as politically motivated, and has said the attorney writing it ignored facts that contradict his thesis.

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