Some villagers say justice slow in coming despite priors, and new felony arrests
A number of people of people from Tatitlek, some living in the small village, others with strong family ties, are speaking out after former resident Lori Ann Clum was arrested in January, and was later indicted and charged with 21 felony counts of trafficking in liquor in a dry village, misconduct with controlled substances, intent to sell narcotics, and weapons charges, including five counts of felon in possession of a firearm.
“It’s almost like she’s mocking the system,” David Totemoff, current council president, said Monday in a telephonic interview.
The people that spoke to the Valdez Star are upset because Clum, also known as Lori Ann Johnson, Sue Johnson and Lori Ann Blake, was freed on $5,000 bail, despite the fact Clum is still in court, fighting attempts by village officials to collect a $150,000 settlement the IRA Village Council won against Clum and her husband, Daniel, after protracted civil litigation involving allegations the couple defrauded village coffers to the tune of nearly $600,000 in late 2007 through 2008. In 2007, Clum, then known as Johnson, beat-out Totemoff in an election to become president of the Tatitlek Village IRA Council, then allegedly emptied the village bank accounts, leaving fuel invoices and IRS tax bills unpaid.
The fuel company refused to barge fuel to the roadless village, located in the Tatitlek Narrows of Prince William Sound, approximately 25 miles southeast of Valdez and 30 air-miles north of Cordova. The IRS demanded $38,000 in back taxes, with the threat of dissolving the village council if the debt was not settled.
A deal was struck between the Clums and the village council in early 2011. The couple admitted to owing the village $150,000, and agreed to pay restitution.
“If we continued to fight her (in court), it might take years and years,” Totemoff said.
After a few splintered payments amounting to what Totemoff said was “$4000 and some change,” the payments stopped. The case has been reopened.
But that is not all.
“Are you kidding me? She’s got other drug convictions,” one former resident fumed. “It’s just completely insane how she gets away with it.”
Alaska court records back up the assertion.
Before taking the married name of Clum, Lori Ann Johnson was arrested at Merrill Field in Anchorage before she boarded a flight to Tatitlek in March 2009. Troopers found her in possession of prescription narcotics she had no prescription for.
After posting $5,000 in bail for that case, Clum reached a plea bargain agreement with state prosecutors. She pleaded guilty to one felony count of misconduct involving a controlled substance with intent to distribute. The state dropped a second felony drug charge and she received 30 months of probation.
“It’s been an ongoing problem,” Totemoff said. “The community, we’re waiting for the system to do its thing.”
Totemoff said Tatilek’s current woes involving Clum began September, 2012, when allegations began surfacing that Clum, who was allegedly living in the village again, was selling illegally imported liquor and selling prescription and street narcotics in the small village.
Court documents state Bill Settle, Tatitlek’s Village Public Safety Officer, or VPSO, received complaints from concerned village residents who had claimed family members were using alcohol illegally purchased from Clum.
Charging documents authored by Settle say Clum gave credit to some customers and, at least in one case, accepted checks as payment for the illegal wares.
Settle began collecting evidence, such as empty vodka containers.
Anonymous notes appeared at Settle’s work computer in November alleging Clum was bootlegging and selling drugs in the village. In one case, Clum allegedly tried to force a debtor’s sister into paying off a liquor tab.
Charging documents state Clum was charging $100 for 1.75 liter bottles of Monarch brand vodka, which sells for BLUK in Valdez, much less in Anchorage. The drugs found in her possession included tar heroin, oxycodone, methadone, crystal meth, Xanax, and dihydrocodeine.
“I’m reeling from it,” Totemoff said. “We don’t know how many people in our village had access to this.”
The 2010 US Census said the village has 87 housing units, 36 which were occupied. The state currently estimated 86 residents in 2011. Totemoff estimated 50 year-round residents. About one third, he says, are children.
Will such a small population, even five users add up to a large percentage of the population, Totemoff said, refusing to speculate on the extent of the troubles within the population.
“It’s hard to think how many kids she could have introduced to this,” Totemoff lamented. “And adults.”
The village has seen its share of drug and alcohol related troubles – inside and outside the village.
In July of 2000, Clum’s own 15-year-old son, Kevin Blake, was killed, along with an 11-year-old cousin, when a drunk driver crashed into a pickup truck Blake was driving under the tutelage of his grandparents.
Totemoff did not fail to see the irony; he wondered how a mother that lost an innocent son to an alcohol related tragedy could later illegally supply booze in a dry village.
Clum’s life, the resulting hardships, it all contains a statement, Totemoff believes; a lesson he hopes the young people of not only Tatitlek, but all of Alaska, can learn from.
“The whole thing is, I guess, is awareness,” he said. “to know where it could lead them.”