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Dinley takes heat, apologizes for comment at tax forum

Two Sitka residents took to the microphone at Tuesday night’s Assembly meeting to protest some comments made by Municipal Administrator Jim Dinley earlier this month.

During a Feb. 3 forum on taxes at the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce, moderator Keith Perkins read a question from the audience. It sounded like a loaded question to Dinley.

PERKINS: “… Why doesn’t the city encourage infrastructure to attract more tourists? Sitka has a terrible attitude against change and development. While they try and figure that out…”
DINLEY: “I think your question is ‘Do you still beat your wife?’ You’re working from the assumption we’re not business friendly…”

Dinley uttered a phrase often used to point out a loaded question. It brought laughs from the audience at the luncheon. But Sitka resident Ginny Blackson did not find the comments funny, and she said so on Tuesday.

“In the six years I have lived in Sitka, I know a half dozen women who have been brutally sexually assaulted and received no justice,” Blackson said. “So you’ll excuse me if I don’t think these comments were funny, and that I am offended by both the comment that where I’m from would never have been made in polite company, and certainly would not have been made by someone being paid to represent the people of Sitka.”

She was followed by Brian Sparks, a domestic violence prevention specialist for Sitkans Against Family Violence, who echoed her sentiments and pointed out that domestic violence is a serious problem in Alaska.

Dinley offered a response later during the meeting.

“I’m very uncomfortable sitting here on my comments. If I offended anybody, I apologize,” he said. “I was asked an impossible question. My wife was sitting in the audience. I totally respect my wife and my children. If that offended you or the people that laughed, I’ll give you my apology. But that’s not who I am.”

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