McKenna Brothers Paving reimburses city for fuel

City says new muni employees did not know rules at fuel depot
McKenna Brothers Paving reimburses city for fuel
Published: Feb. 10, 2023 at 5:39 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A private contractor hired to help with emergency snow removal has had to repay the city for fuel it improperly used from city pumps. McKenna Brothers Paving was one of the companies hired to help Anchorage deal with December’s heavy snow, but their trucks were not supposed to use municipal fuel.

Anchorage Assembly members say they are having a hard time getting much information out of the mayor’s office, and even when they do, they say they often do not get the full story.

Records provided to Alaska’s News Source show trucks from McKenna Brothers Paving filled up at the municipal fuel depot on Northwood Drive 97 times in December 2022 and January of this year.

At the regular Anchorage Assembly meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 7, some members wanted to know how and why trucks owned by McKenna Brothers Paving were allowed to fuel up at the municipal depot.

Assembly member Daniel Volland demanded to know how the situation occurred.

“Given that there has been an acknowledgment of potential error or wrongdoing or whatever you want to call it at this point by the administration, I’d like an opportunity for the Assembly to be briefed on this, to know why a contractor 97 times was able to use our fuel pumps,” said Volland.

Assembly member Meg Zaletel expressed frustration over continuing difficulties getting detailed answers from the mayor’s office on numerous issues, including the fuel problem.

“It feels like you’re trying to put it back on us. No. You hold the information. Provide it, please,” said Zaletel sharply to Acting Municipal Manager Kent Kohlhase.

Paul VanLandingham, the municipality’s street maintenance manager, told the Assembly that the situation was an honest error, discovered and quickly fixed.

“A mistake was made by a newer employee and a newer supervisor on these night shifts,” said VanLandingham. “But that said though, these mistakes fall on my shoulders, it happened under my watch. ... No intent to pad anything, to sneak anything on.”

Acting Municipal Manager Kohlhase pushed back on the Assembly’s criticism.

“I find it offensive that comments are made that — when they are viewed in the whole — appear to indicate that either Paul (VanLandingham) knew about this or that his staff knew about it and that it was done intentionally. That is absolutely not the case.”

In a brief phone call with Alaska’s News Source, Marc McKenna, one of the owners of McKenna Brothers Paving, said he stood behind VanLandingham’s remarks and said the fueling mistake won’t happen again.

Documents provided by the Municipality of Anchorage show McKenna Brothers reimbursed the city $14,250.82 for the fuel.

“The MOA was made aware of a situation where a contractor (McKenna Brothers) received fuel on several occasions from municipal fuel tanks,” the mayor’s office wrote in a statement. “This was not an appropriate use of municipal resources and should not have occurred. The contractor has been billed for the fuel it received. The MOA has received full payment for the fuel. See the attached invoice for the fuel bill. Employees and the contractor involved with this incident received clear direction that instances such as this are not to occur. Moving forward, the policy in place for the allocation of fuel will be strictly enforced.”

Despite the explanation, Assembly members said they now need more information before moving forward with an unrelated request from the mayor’s office for more than $4 million in additional money for fuel.

“I think there’s still a lot of information and controversy around fuel and the municipality’s administration of this resource,” said Zaletel.

The Assembly then voted to postpone the vote on more money for fuel until their Feb. 21 meeting.

Acting Municipal Manager Kohlhase says he does not expect that delay would cause any significant problems.