Alaskans curious as to the fate of the first and only member of the state Board of Fisheries to stand accused of ripping off the Alaska Permanent Fund will have to wait a couple more weeks to find out what sort of deal the state cut with Montana Alaskan Roland Maw.
A longtime operative in Alaska fishery politics, Maw was scheduled to Friday offer a plea to 12 felonies charging him with filing for Permanent Fund Dividends (PFDs) while spending a limited amount of time in state and claiming to be resident in both Montana and Alaska at the same time.
The plea hearing has now been rescheduled for Feb. 15 in Juneau. A spokesman for the Alaska Department of Law on Friday refused to say what sort of deal Maw and his attorney have worked out with state lawyers.
Or what sort of deal they are still working out.
Montana didn’t take nearly as long to figure things out. Seven years ago, that state charged Maw with illegally obtaining hunting and fishing licenses, and within a matter of months, Maw had accepted that he shouldn’t have been claiming to be a resident of that state while also claiming to be a resident of Alaska.
After that plea, a Montana judge fined Maw $7,245 and revoked his hunting and fishing privileges for 18 months.
Montana, like Alaska and most other states, stipulates one cannot legally obtain resident licenses or tags if they “possess or apply for any resident hunting, fishing, or trapping licenses from another state or country or exercise resident hunting, fishing, or trapping privileges in another state or country.”
Maw apparently thought he could minimize his legal problems and get off easy by pleading the Montana case out and accepting what amounted to a smallish fine for a well-off, retired college professor highly successful as a summertime commercial fisherman in the 49th state’s salmon and halibut fisheries.
His Montana plea of nolo contendere – Latin for “I do not wish to contend” – to the Montana charges meant, according to the Legal Dictionary that he agreed “to be convicted and punished for a crime, while not actually admitting that he is guilty.”
Such pleas save a defendant the cost of hiring an attorney for trial and offer some protection against civil action. Such a “no-contest” plea cannot be used as an admission of guilt in a civil case.
Maw, however, wasn’t facing civil problems in Alaska or comparatively minor misdemeanor crimes related to lying about this residency in order to obtain cheaper resident licenses, although he would eventually be charged with those misdemeanors.
His big problem was the state’s alleged discovery that he had been spending fewer than 185 days per year in state, the necessary minimum to retain Alaska residency for PFD purpose, and had lied, or not, to obtain Montana resident, hunting and fishing licenses.
Maw has never made it clear where exactly his residence at the time – his little house in Kasilof or a big house in Dillon.
Not that it matters a whole lot.
The law governing the PFD clearly states that “an individual is not eligible for a dividend if, at any time from January 1 of the qualifying year through the date of application, the individual has” claimed to be domiciled in another state, claimed a property tax exemption in another state, taken advantage of reduced resident tuition at a college or university in another state, registered to vote or voted in another state, or “obtained a resident hunting, fishing, or trapping license from another state or country” along with a variety of other PFD disqualifiers.
And Maw has now conceded he held resident hunting, fishing or trapping licenses in another state. When Maw discovered what a pickle that put him in, he tried to go back to court and change his plea in Montana, but a Montana judge refused to grant him a new trial.
With that legal option foreclosed, Maw’s lawyer petitioned a Juneau Superior Court judge to dismiss the indictment against Maw because the state couldn’t prove Maw – and not someone pretending to be Maw – typed PFD applications into Maw’s computer.
The ghost-in-the-computer defense twice convinced a sympathetic judge, who just happened to be the son of a California commercial fisherman, to dismiss the charges against Maw, but the state each time re-indicted him.
The Maw defense certainly earned points for creativity if not success, but Maw has always been creative.
When he applied for the job as Alaska’s Commissioner of Fish and Game in 2013, he claimed to have been involved in discovering an endangered species, a claim very few can make.
Maw wrote that he was “co-author of ‘Fishing Canada’s Mountain Parks,’ 1985 … (which has) received numerous public awards for the first scientific description and naming of ‘Bull Trout’ as a new species of char/trout.’‘
The bull trout had actually been discovered by Ted Cavender of The Ohio State University Museum of Zoology seven years earlier and officially recognized as a new species by the American Fisheries Society in 1980.
Maw’s claim to discovery didn’t surface until after Maw’s application was rejected and former Gov. Bill Walker named Maw to a seat on the state Board of Fisheries, which oversees the state regulatory process.
Maw co-author James Butler subsequently wrote a glowing endorsement of Maw, a former student, in which Butler confessed that he and Maw knew about the “bull trout” before the book was written and admitted that the book won no awards although “it did receive a great deal of recognition, praise and excellent reviews….”
Maw’s failed bid to become Commissioner of Fish and Game, meanwhile, sparked a battle between Walker and the Fish Board that set the stage for Maw to be named to the latter. The Fish Board, which along with the Game Board, reviews applicants for the commissioner’s job and forwards to the governor the names of those deemed best qualified had refused to even interview the minimally qualified Maw.
Walker, according to an op-ed former Fish Board Chairman Karl Johnstone wrote for the Anchorage Daily News, then called Johnstone to express”dissatisfaction with the BOF (Board of Fish) when it did not interview and then submit Maw’s name to him as being qualified to serve as the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.”
Johnstone, a one-time Alaska Superior Court judge, wrote that he then “volunteered to step down early if it would help my replacement to get up to speed in preparation for next year’s challenging set of meetings. He (Walker) quickly accepted my offer. Shortly after the call, the governor appointed Roland Maw to replace me.”
Maw was at the time claiming to be a retired commercial fisherman. He told the Kenai Peninsula Clarion, his hometown newspaper, that “he has not drawn a salary from the United Cook Inlet Drift Association (UCIDA) – a commercial fisheries advocacy group – for months and no longer owns a commercial drift fishing permit in the Upper Cook Inlet.”
But Maw never strayed far from the Inlet fishery. His claim to retirement came in January 2015. He was under investigation by both Alaska and Montana officials by February 2015 and banned from hunting and fishing in both Montana and Alaska, per the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, for 18 months.
A month after that sentence was handed down, the records of the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, show that Adam T. Maw from Carson City, Nevada obtained a commercial permit to driftnet salmon in Cook Inlet.
Adam is Roland’s grandson. He was then 16 years old. His Facebook page from the time described him as “Chef at The Krusty Krab.”
Adam didn’t hold onto the permit for long.
It was officially transferred to Roland on June 13, 2017, according to the CFEC records. His ban had by then expired and the Upper Cook Inlet salmon season was about to begin. And even before that, Maw was back in form with UCIDA and lobbying Walker on Inlet fishing regulations.
The state records show Roland has hung onto Adam’s old drift permit ever since. Federal records add that he was in 2020 granted $52,337.84 from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for his reported fishing losses in 2019.
He didn’t hang onto his coveted Board of Fish seat nearly as long. Walker named him to the Board on Jan. 20, 2015. He mysteriously withdrew from the position on Feb. 20 as the state Legislature was starting confirmation hearings.
The Walker administration refused to say why. Maw was no commenting. And the Daily News, the state’s largest newspaper, was pretending Maw was a victim of Inlet “fish wars.”
The truth was far simpler. Alaska State Troopers had the day before been asked to find out if it was true the new appointee to the Alaska Board of Fisheries was claiming to be a Montana resident. When they confirmed that information, they told Walker, who then told Maw he had to resign.
That little problem didn’t appear to do any damage to their friendship.