Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson said an emergency order by the North Slope Borough mayor to commandeer RavnAir Group’s assets is “void under federal and state law.”
North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower signed an emergency order Sunday authorizing the “commandeering” of RavnAir's assets located within the borough. The order states that the action was taken to “continue vital air service to borough communities” after Ravn announced it was ceasing all operations and filing for bankruptcy on Sunday.
Until recently, Ravn provided vital freight and passenger service to the North Slope villages of Atqasuk, Point Lay, Wainwright, Nuiqsut and Kaktovik. According to a chapter in the North Slope Borough Code titled "Responsibility of Mayor Concerning Disasters," the mayor has the power to “commandeer or utilize any private property, except for all news media, other than as specifically provided for in this chapter, if he considers them necessary to cope with the disaster emergency.”
As such, the borough claims possession of all Ravn assets within its boundaries. This includes buildings, hangars, equipment, operations manuals, parts, supplies, vehicles and airplanes. It also includes Ravn's assets in Utqiagvik and Deadhorse.
Clarkson, however, said the North Slope Borough “does not have the authority to commandeer property,” according to a statement sent to the Daily News-Miner.
“All Ravn’s property is part of its bankruptcy estate. This means the North Slope Borough order is void under federal and state law. Any party seeking to operate air services also needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration,” reads Clarkson’s statement.
In his statement, Clarkson also writes that the state appreciates the borough’s need to establish substitute air service for all communities impacted by Ravn’s bankruptcy, but he called the emergency order “counterproductive.”
“As long as local governments might be attempting to seize Ravn’s property, it will be more difficult to establish replacement air service,” the statement reads. “In addition, more than 1,200 Ravn employees who were laid off on Sunday are unpaid, and actions by local governments that impede the bankruptcy jeopardize those employees being paid.”
A North Slope Borough representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Contact staff writer Alistair Gardiner at 459-7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.