Regulators: Top Dunleavy administration official can’t conceal consulting firm’s clients

Alaska State Capitol main entrance. Jan. 23, 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

State regulators have rejected a bid by a top official in Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration to hide key details about a second job that paid her more than $200,000 last year.

Staff at the Alaska Public Offices Commission this week said Mary Ann Pruitt, Dunleavy’s contract communications director, is required to disclose the clients of PS Strategies, an advertising and political consulting firm.

Pruitt is being paid $15,417 a month, or about $185,000 over the course of a year, even as she remains the sole owner and president of PS Strategies.

Pruitt has said she’s working full-time for the government and now holds only a minor, supervisory role at the company. Dunleavy administration officials have said Pruitt is not getting benefits through her state job and that she will only be on the job temporarily, though her contract does not have an end date.

Pruitt, who’s married to Anchorage Republican Representative Lance Pruitt, had asked for an exemption from Alaska’s financial disclosure laws, which are designed to guard against undisclosed conflicts of interest.

Pruitt’s attorney wrote the public offices commission in January to say PS Strategies’ clients’ identities and payments were trade secrets, and that Pruitt’s right to privacy far outweighed the state’s interest in transparency.

The public offices commission’s staff, in a letter Monday, disagreed.

The letter, written by paralegal Madeline Sholl, said there’s ample information about PS Strategies’ clients already available online, undercutting the argument that their identities are a trade secret.

And because state law allows officials to disclose income from clients within broad ranges, rather than identify an exact amount, the company can still safeguard information that would be valuable to competitors, like how much it charges for specific services.

Given Pruitt’s job within the highest state executive office, the commission’s letter says, the public has the right to know what ties PS Strategies has with corporate and political entities.

Pruitt has one month to either add the information to her financial disclosure, or appeal the staff ruling to the commission’s politically-appointed commissioners.

Pruitt referred questions to her attorney, Stacey Stone, who declined to comment.

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