Attorney plans court opposition over Fairbanks borough's redistricting lawsuit withdrawal

Matt Buxton
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
October 30, 2011

FAIRBANKS — The attorney representing two Fairbanks-area men in a lawsuit against the Alaska Redistricting Board has indicated he plans to file opposition to the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s request to drop out.

Mike Walleri, who represents George Riley and Ron Dearborn, declined to comment on the argument he’ll make in opposition that will be filed in Alaska Superior Court on Monday.

“I think it’s premature to say why at this time,” he said.

The borough will have until Wednesday to respond Walleri’s opposition.

The borough, Riley and the city of Petersberg filed lawsuits against the Alaska Redistricting Board and were consolidated into one case. Petersberg and the Alaska Redistricting Board have given support to the borough’s decision, but Alaska Superior Court Judge Michael McConahy will have to review Riley’s complaints before letting the borough out of the lawsuit.

The assembly decided to move to withdraw from the lawsuit last week during an executive session and the borough attorney filed a formal motion on Tuesday. It’s a move that has drawn a fair amount of criticism from the public for both its financial implications and that it was done without public process.

At its meeting this week, more than a half-dozen members criticized the borough during the public comment session.

But that appears to be the extent of public comment, said Mona Drexler, the borough clerk. As of Friday afternoon, she said she wasn’t aware of any emails or other communications to assembly members.

Both Walleri and McConahy’s aides said a claim that the judge was looking for public input on the lawsuit is untrue and likely came from a misunderstanding related to the original filing.

The assembly said it withdrew from the suit because of concerns the lawsuit was becoming increasingly expensive.

The assembly will hold another executive session on the lawsuit Thursday. Because the sessions are confidential under attorney client privilege, Drexler said it’s unclear what the topic of the meeting will be.

The meeting has been in advance of the borough’s direction and could likely be an opportunity for the borough’s attorney to provide updates for incoming assembly members.

Assistant Borough Attorney Jill Dolan, who is handling the lawsuit, was unavailable for comment.