Assembly member accused of conflict on cruise ship dock appeal

Carlton Smith

Assembly member Carlton Smith. Photo courtesy City and Borough of Juneau.

A Juneau Assembly member is under fire for an alleged conflict of interest by opponents of a controversial cruise ship dock project.

Assembly member Carlton Smith is the real estate broker for a property that could benefit from dock expansion. The 70,000 square foot parcel on South Franklin Street just south of the Marine Parking Garage is owned by Archipelago Properties, a subsidiary of Morris Communications, which owns the Juneau Empire and Capital City Weekly.

Smith’s website advertises the property as a “waterfront development opportunity,” and notes that the soon to be completed Panamax docks will allow cruise ships carrying up to 3,000 passengers to tie up.

In the past, Smith has recused himself from voting on issues pertaining to the property, notably when the assembly last summer OK’d the purchase of a right of way through it for an extension of the downtown seawalk. But he says he did not see a need to disclose a possible conflict of interest in November when the Assembly heard an appeal of a Planning Commission decision approving dock expansion permits.

“The cruise ships are already at that location. It doesn’t matter whether the larger ships tie up to the new dock or not,” Smith said.

“I have conferred with the city attorney on this and I will take his direction, and if I have to step down on future votes I certainly will. But I doubt that my vote’s going to make a difference in the outcome.”

The Assembly is scheduled to vote Monday on a written decision upholding the Planning Commission permits. Smith did not say whether City Attorney John Hartle advised him to recuse himself from that vote. Hartle declined to comment, citing attorney-client privilege.

The attorney acknowledged receiving an email from Linnea and Arthur Osborne, the commercial fishing couple who appealed the Planning Commission permits. Hartle characterized it as an “informal” third party complaint, in which the Osbornes requested that the Assembly not take further action on the appeal and refer the matter to a hearing officer, citing Smith’s alleged conflict of interest.

The Osbornes could not be reached for comment.

Smith says the timing of the complaint is suspect, given that it came after the Osbornes lost their appeal.

“My involvement with that property has been disclosed twice. I’ve recused myself twice. Our signs have been on the property for over two and a half years,” he said. “Its broad public knowledge that I was involved with that, and for it to come up now is a little bit curious.”

Hartle says the written decision on the dock expansion appeal remains on the agenda for Monday’s Assembly meeting.

Smith says the property remains for sale, with an asking price of $175 per square foot, or about $12 million for the entire parcel. He says there’s “nothing happening” in the way of interest in the site.