Somehow unnoticed, Roland Maw – the former Alaska Board of Fisheries member facing charges of Permanent Fund dividend fraud after being convicted of claiming to be a resident of both Alaska and Montana – appears to have gone back into business as a commercial fisherman in Cook Inlet.
Video posted yesterday on the public Facebook page of his granddaughter Brooklyn Maw, a Nevada beauty queen, appears to show the Maw family hitting the jackpot while drift netting in the Inlet. Upper Inlet net fisheries were open for 12 hours Monday during which about 63,000 sockeye were caught along with 33,000 coho (or silver) salmon.
The Maws could not be immediately reached from comment.
The Inlet harvest comes with Kenai River sockeye returns about half the average for the date, and some people starting to worry about a weak run of the fish to the state’s most popular salmon stream. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists, however, have reason to believe the salmon are simply late as they were last year.
Brooklyn’s post, headlined simply “Commercial fishing,” does illustrate there is still an abundance of sockeye in the Inlet, or at least there was. In the video showing a gillnet hanging heavy with fish being brought to the boat, she says “Oh my gosh,” before chuckling a couple of times and squealing “Look at all them. So many!”
Brooklyn is a former Cook Inlet driftnet permit holder. Her 74-year-old grandfather transferred his permit to her in 2014 after he claimed to have retired from commercial fishing.
At the time, CFEC paperwork listed Brooklyn as an Alaska resident with the same post-office box address Roland has used in the Kenai Peninsula community of Kasilof. Gov. Bill Walker, a friend of Roland’s, was elected to office in November of 2014, and after getting rid of his fishing permit, Roland applied to be Alaska’s new Commissioner of Fish and Game.
The executive director of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association (UCIDA), the most powerful commercial fishing organization in the region, Roland didn’t even get an interview for the job. His application was rejected without comment by the Joint Board of Fish and Game, which is legally required to recommend to the governor a list of candidates for Commissioner of Fish and Game.
The Board recommended another former commercial fishermen, one-time state legislator Sam Cotten, to the governor. It was a radical shift of direction for an organization that had traditionally been headed by a fish or wildife professional.
Still, the Board’s decision to pass on Roland without discussion drew the ire of the state’s new executive. Walker almost immediately announced he was not going to submit the name of Board Chairman Karl Johnstone, a retired judge, to the Alaska Legislature for reappointment.
Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Johnstone promptly resigned the Board, and Walker immediately appointed Roland to fill Johnstone’s seat on the entity that oversees regulation of fisheries in the 49th state.
Roland attended his first Board meeting in Sitka not long after, but he was gone from the Board within a month. The Anchorage Daily News had by then discovered he was claiming to be a resident of both Montana and Alaska in order to get cheaper resident hunting and fishing licenses. It is illegal in both states to claim dual residency.
Aware that Roland was already under investigation in Montana, however, and facing potential problems with the Permanent Fund, Walker had asked for the Montanan’s resignation.
The Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend program specifically states that anyone who obtains a “resident hunting, fishing, or trapping license from another state or country” loses any claim to being an Alaska resident.
With Roland already under investigation by wildlife authorities in Montana, Alaska began an investigation into potential PFD fraud in Alaska. The investigation took almost two years, but eventually resulted in Roland being accused not only of illegally claiming residency in Montana, but of spending so little time in the 49th state that he failed to qualify as a resident on those grounds, too.
Since the charges were filed, an attorney for Roland has successfully battled the case with a claim the state can’t prove the PFD’s filed electronically were actually submitted by Roland. The tactic has been wildly successful and hugely unproductive.
A judge has twice thrown out indictments against Roland, but the state – which does a huge amount of business online – has had little choice to but to re-indict him every time for fear of establishing a precedent for anyone looking for a way to avoid legal problems when dealing with the state online.
Roland is now set to go to trial in Juneau in November, and a new judge has been named to replace the son of a commercial fishermen who had been presiding over the case.
The issues in Montana were settled much more rapidly. Roland and son, Robert – Brooklyn’s father and also a commercial fisherman in the Inlet in the summer – ended up charged with illegal hunting shortly after the Montana investigation began.
Since then, Roland has reportedly put his Dillon, Mont. home up for sale and is back in Alaska where he is once more active in fishery politics or “fishtics” as some in the state call it. He was a member of a UCIDA group that met with Walker shortly before the governor announced creation of a special state task force to resolve long-running and ongoing disputes over how catches of Cook Inlet salmon are allocated between commercial, dipnet, sport and subsistence fishermen.
The task force promptly ran into opposition from groups representing personal-use dipnetters and anglers suspicious of Walkers’ close ties to Roland and commercial fishing interests. Shortly thereafter, the governor’s office announced the discovery that fishermen are busy fishing in the Alaska summer, and the meetings of the task force were postponed until fall.