Saturday, March 10, 2007

Trial Of Indicted University of Alaska Regent Jim Hayes And His Wife Postponed Until September

A Federal judge has agreed to postpone the trial of former Fairbanks City Mayor and current UA Regent Jim Hayes and his wife on charges they misused more than $450,000 in grant funds awarded to LOVE Social Services Center, the nonprofit they helped found in 2000. Original story published March 9th, 2007 in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Attorneys for the Hayeses asked for the delay, which was not opposed by the assistant U.S. attorney, due to what they say is the complexity of the case. Trial had originally been scheduled for April 9th in Fairbanks. The new date is September 17th.

U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick, in a ruling Wednesday (March 7th), agreed that a delay is called for because of the amount of material involved and the scope of the charges against the Hayeses. The judge noted that the case was the result of a year-long investigation and was based on a large number of documents going back to the year 2000. The amount of material, the judge notes in his ruling, includes “10 boxes of materials stored in Fairbanks that were obtained through subpoenas and 10 boxes of materials and three hard drives that were obtained by search warrant and are stored in Anchorage.” The judge agreed that attorneys need additional time to have the material reproduced and distributed prior to trial. The delay will also help the government prepare a more effective case and better ensure it's not thrown out on a "technicality".

To briefly recap, Jim Hayes, who is a member of the University of Alaska Board of Regents, and Murilda “Chris” Hayes were indicted in January on multiple charges of theft, fraud and money laundering associated with their alleged misuse of funds given to LOVE Social Services, of which Chris Hayes is executive director. Jim Hayes was indicted on 23 counts, Chris Hayes on 92 counts.

LOVE Social Services received nearly $3 million through a total of five federal grants, at the direction of Senator Ted Stevens, from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice, from 2000 to 2005. The government alleges the Hayeses diverted a large portion of that money for personal use and to help build the new home of the Lily of the Valley Church of God in Christ on 24th Avenue.

Click HERE to view the entire 27-page, 115-count indictment in PDF format to appreciate the complexity of this case.

Hayes and his wife have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Hayes has refused multiple calls for his resignation from the UA Board of Regents, to include calls from the Anchorage Daily News, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, the UAA and UAF student newspapers, and even Governor Sarah Palin herself. According to the state's Attorney General, Governor Palin hasn't the authority to summarily fire Hayes; only the state legislature can impeach him. However, Senate President Lyda Green demurs, and so she sidetracked a recent impeachment bill submitted by State Senator Tom Wagoner (R-Kenai), requiring the bill to be heard by three different committees rather than just the judiciary committee. Wagoner's proposed bill is not officially intended to impeach him because of his legal troubles, but because he has missed nearly half of the scheduled regents' meetings during the past year and a half.

And now the general public is beginning to react more strongly to this situation. In their March 10th issue, the Anchorage Daily News has published a letter to the editor from a UAF student calling for Hayes to be fired. Click HERE then scroll down to the eighth (last) letter to view it:

Media is wrong to perpetuate lie that governor cannot remove regent

The Alaska media keeps perpetuating the lie that the governor of Alaska does not have the power to remove a university regent. This is misleading reporting. It is true that the governor of Alaska cannot remove a regent without cause. If I used University of Alaska Fairbanks stationary to obtain a grant, I would be fired. If I was accused of stealing $450,000 from said grant, I would be fired. If I missed teaching 44 percent of my classes in one year, I would be fired.

It is one thing if the governor of Alaska wants to protect an ex-politician who is not fulfilling his job requirements; it is another thing altogether for the local media to give her a pass on this outrageous behavior. Though it might be typical behavior for this type of "protect your own" shenanigan to occur, it is not normal. Typical relates to what the majority does, whereas normal is a value judgment.

(Signed) Jeff Benowitz

UAF student

My only disagreement with this LTE is the implication that Governor Palin is somehow "protecting" Hayes. Not only is there no evidence backing up this claim, but Palin herself twice asked Hayes to resign. Palin may be merely trying to spare the state the expensive legal battle which might ensue from summarily firing Hayes.

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