Local News

Council Member Bergeron resigns over job conflict

Ketchikan is seen from the water on a beautiful sunny day.

Bergeron didn’t want to resign. In fact, he’s upset that he had to.

“I think the city charter is outdated, and I think my seat on the Council and my impact on the Council had meaning, and made a difference,” he said. “And it’s with that antiquated charter that I have to leave the seat, otherwise I would have stayed with it.”

The charter specifies that any Council member who misses more than half the regular meetings in a six-month period is automatically off of the Council. And they have to attend in person; calling in doesn’t count.

What’s interesting is that the ordinance requiring members to attend a certain number of meetings in person rather than over the phone is fairly recent. It was adopted in 2009, after Bergeron — who was serving on the Council at that time – took a job in Kazakhstan.

After he repeatedly phoned or Skyped in to Council meetings, other Council members talked about limiting that method of participation, and proposed an ordinance. Bergeron resigned in May of 2009 before the ordinance came up for a vote, but the Council ended up approving the measure anyway.

After Bergeron completed that job and returned, he ran for and won a seat on the Council again. But with one year left on that term, he finds himself again employed outside of Ketchikan. Bergeron said that this time is a little different.

“It’s not like I’m serving overseas. I’m in the same country, one time zone away, with a high-speed Internet connection,” he said. “I’m a resident of Ketchikan and a resident of Alaska. It seems silly to me that I have to give up my seat because of this rule.”

Bergeron’s job is in Nevada, and he said it is a permanent position. He enjoys the work, but said he misses living full-time in Ketchikan.

Bergeron also was a member of the Southeast Alaska Power Agency board, and has resigned from that body, as well. He said calling in to those meetings just isn’t possible, because SEAPA’s teleconferencing system is inadequate.

“Just as a general member of the public. If you listen in on those as a member of the media, and you’re not in the room, the connection is terrible,” he said. “You can’t hear what’s going on, you can’t tell who’s talking. It’s really a disservice to everyone.”

Bergeron has other complaints about SEAPA, and now that he’s off the board he plans to be more vocal about changes he believes should be made.

“I’m among a small group of people in the know that think that SEAPA needs to go,” he said. “Or we need to change our role in it, make it a power distribution company. I think Ketchikan is more qualified to take care of its hydro future than any SEAPA board or any other organization.”

Bergeron was appointed to the SEAPA board by the Ketchikan City Council, and the Council will have to appoint a new representative to replace him.

For his vacant Council seat, the city will advertise for applicants. Council Member Marty West describes what happens next for those who apply for the seat.

“They will then come to the Council and talk a little about why they want to be on the Council, and then we’ll decide who will take that remaining seat until the next election,” she said. “Then that seat will be up for grabs.”

To qualify for a seat on the Council, applicants must be city residents and registered voters.

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