In less than a month, Skagway voters will cast ballots for two open borough assembly seats. But one more seat may be vacant soon. Some residents have spoken up at recent meetings about their hopes for the future of that spot on the assembly.
Earlier this year, longtime Assemblyman and restaurant owner Dan Henry was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for failing to file his income taxes. He must report to a federal prison facility by Nov. 1.
Since the federal tax case conviction and sentencing, Henry has continued to serve on the assembly without publicly addressing the situation.
But some residents have spoken out at recent meetings.
At a meeting in August, Bob Carlson referred to a letter Henry penned in the Skagway News. Henry talked about his volunteer service to Skagway and how he helped improve the town’s finances as an assembly member.
“I don’t want to conflate volunteerism that you’ve done, that’s quite honorable, with permission to do whatever you want on my behalf as a representative,” Carlson said. “I believe that assembly members should be of the highest character and moral. I feel that you failed me, and our community, too.”
Carlson was one of a few residents who called on Henry to resign his seat in time for it to be placed on the October election ballot. But Henry has not resigned and it is now too late to change the ballot.
It is unclear how long Henry plans to continue serving on the assembly. In his Skagway News letter, he says he plans on ‘serving my town until such time that I can’t.’ Henry has not returned KHNS’s multiple calls for comment.
Skagway Borough Code says an assembly seat will be declared vacant if a member is physically absent from the municipality for 90 consecutive days. But other assembly members have the power to excuse that member if they choose.
Now that it’s certain Henry’s seat won’t be included on the ballot, if he does resign, the remaining members will appoint someone to his spot.
Resident Steve Hites spoke at the most recent assembly meeting asking that whichever candidate isn’t elected in October be appointed to Henry’s seat.
“I would humbly suggest to the mayor and assembly that when Dan Henry’s seat at this table is vacated, the mayor choose to appoint the third candidate, whoever that individual might be, for they’re running for the office and putting themselves up for a vote of the citizens of Skagway,” Hites said.
The three assembly candidates are incumbent Tim Cochran, David Brena and Orion Hanson.
Skagway faced a similar situation three years ago. In 2013, then-Assemblyman Mark Schaefer was elected mayor, leaving his assembly seat vacant. Meeting minutes indicate that some assembly members favored appointing Christopher Ticarro, who had just lost his election bid.
But Schaefer nominated a different person, Jim Sager, for the spot. The assembly followed the mayor’s recommendation.
If someone is appointed to Henry’s seat, they’ll serve on the assembly until the next municipal election, instead of the usual three-year term.