State suspends grant money that includes funding for tennis courts

Scott Ruby, a director at the Department of Commerce, sent a letter to Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan telling him that disbursements for the $37 million grant which includes funding for Anchorage tennis courts has been suspended pending “resolution” of issues surrounding the grant: namely the use of the grant money to build new tennis courts.

Ruby wrote that the department is “taking this action in response to a legal concern raised by the Legislature’s Legal Services Division.” Ruby said that the action was “unfortunate,” and he hoped for a speedy resolution.

Alaska state Sen. Lesil McGuire alerted the division to the legal services opinion in a letter she wrote to the department and to Gov. Sean Parnell.

Last year lawmakers added the funding for the courts to a larger package in the state capital budget earmarked, “Project 80s Deferred and Critical Maintenance.” The money was originally intended to support renovations to aging facilities like the Dempsey-Anderson Arena, Sullivan Arena and the Ben Boeke Ice Arena.

Sullivan and Rep. Lindsey Holmes pushed for the tennis court money to be part of the appropriation, a push that has since captured the public’s attention and has turned into a symbol of murky government process.

Hilary Martin, the legislative lawyer Ruby is referring to, wrote on April 2 that the law says that a condition of a grant is that the grantee will “spend the grant for the purposes specified in the appropriation or allocation.” New tennis courts “would not likely fit with the purpose of the appropriation,” Martin wrote. Nor would they fit the definition of deferred and critical maintenance of buildings built in the 1980s, she said.

McGuire is running against Sullivan in the lieutenant governor’s race. She recently asked the Senate Finance Committee to re-appropriate the tennis court money and put it into the library instead.

The Committee voted against doing do.

McGuire denies that she’s pushing the issue for her campaign, and welcomes a rewrite of the grant to fit the stated purposes. One of her main goals, she said, is for the public to be aware of the fact that the Legislature didn’t authorize tennis courts when they allocated the money.

“This is precedent setting,” McGuire said. “When you’re asking for public money, you should be clear what you’re asking for.”

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8 thoughts on “State suspends grant money that includes funding for tennis courts

  1. anonymous

    The Anchorage Tennis Association supported the tennis courts. We need tennis courts. The mayor knows this because like us they’re difficult to find. I support Mayor Sullivan’s efforts to build the tennis courts. All this talk is much ado about nothing.

  2. Mayor Dan

    The request for the appropriation came from the Alaska Tennis Association. They got resolutions of support from the community councils, and letters of support from me, various sports organizations, the University, etc. They presented their request to the legislature and were successful in obtaining funding. They are not responsible for how the grant funds were put together. So, anonymous blogger ‘smitty’, how does that equate to lies and arrogance on my part? It doesn’t, of course. Posts like yours are both transparent and pathetic. Use your real full name and maybe you’ll at least have a smidgeon of credibility.

  3. Ben

    If she had a concern she should have brought it up a long time ago. It’s not like the plan to build the courts is brand new. The assembly (that we all voted in) passed it. This was supposed to be a done deal. Lesils attempt to stop it now is obviously a cheap way to get some attention and scrutiny towards her competition. The assembly voting not to reapropriate the money (by a large majority) shows there was more thought put into the initial decision than lesils decision to make a scene.

  4. Ben

    The state can decide whether or not improving the facility by adding the multi-purpose/tennis courts is allowable with the appropriation but come on, I hardly think the mayor working to help enhance our city’s fitness and community opportunities makes him arrogant or untruthful. Don’t start throwing accusations without justification. There was no lies or scandal as much as you’d like there to be. This facility would be great for our community especially the kids and youth of Anchorage. I’m glad the administration worked along with some great organizations that do great things to try and make this happen. It looks a lot like progress to me!

  5. Smitty

    Lesil McGuire and Mayor Dan, as the onle two Republiican Lite Governor candidates, leave a lot to be desired. I am truly surprised that no other Republican appears to be jumping in the race as I believe it iis fertile ground for the taking.
    Both Lesil and Dan have their share of problems, or should I say share the same problem? Regardless, I have learned one thing – – by compariso the Mayor makes Lesil look good.
    The appropriation in question was for Project 80s maintenance. To suggest that a tennis court could be built with this appropriation is ridiculous. The Mayor should be ashamed of himself and start being truthful with the public. He could start by apologizing for the lie. The Mayor’s arrogance is evidence that he is no longer fit to serve in public office where he acts with the public trust.

  6. R. Walters

    It’s about time that someone demanded that the state appropriation process be protected. For too long, cities and non-profiits have been gaming the system and not following the diictates of specific appropriations. I admire Lesil McGuire’s courage and fortitude in. Demanding that the state’s laws be followed. Her efforts will shed a spotlight hopefully on a backroom process that is anything but transparent.
    I salute her leadership on exposing this wrong.

  7. Lynn Willis

    Thank you to Senator McGuire and Mr. Ruby. We will never get necessary control of our state budget if we don’t enforce the laws relating to budgeting. If these legislators and other politicians don’t like it then they should change the law to basically hand sacks of state cash to local governments – no questions asked.
    What concerns me most is abuse of the budget process. How often and where else in the budget process did this practice occur.
    Now perhaps current law will prevail and money budgeted for “Project 80’s critical and deferred maintenance” will be spent for the purposes these funds were appropriated.
    Next should come the Attorney General and/or legislative investigation into the actions of all concerned to both exonerate those who did nothing wrong then remind those who assumed illegal powers that these assumptions of power, when illegal, have consequences.

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