State calls misconduct on coach - Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman: News

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Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013 2:53 pm | Updated: 2:47 pm, Wed Sep 18, 2013.

WASILLA — The Palmer Grand Jury indicted a longtime Mat-Su teacher and hockey coach last week on allegations he defrauded the Alaska Avalanche Junior A program’s booster club of about $48,000.

James “Jamie” Donald Smith Jr. was served with the indictment on March 1 and summonsed into Palmer Superior Court for a March 18 arraignment on five felony counts alleging he forged documents and defrauded the Alaska Avalanche fundraising arm, the Sprit Booster Club, from June 2008 through December 2009.

In all, Smith faces two charges of second-degree forgery of legal documents, first-degree theft greater than $25,000, scheme to defraud more than $10,000 and fraudulent use of an access device greater than $25,000, according to charging documents filed in state criminal superior court.

A teacher at Mat-Su Career and Technical High School and current head coach of the Colony High School hockey program, Smith has a long and involved history in the Valley and sport.

As of Monday afternoon, Career Tech principal Mark Okeson said he’s aware of the indictment and said Smith was still teaching there. He described Smith as “a great teacher,” and said he had received no further direction from the district regarding the matter.

At the Mat-Su Borough School District, officials are aware of the indictment, first handed down by the grand jury Feb. 27, and are looking into the matter, said district spokeswoman Catherine Esary. Until that’s complete, Smith’s status as a teacher and coach will remain unchanged, she said.

“The district was concerned to learn that one of our staff members was indicted on five felony counts related to the administration and handling of funds for the (booster club),” MSBSD Director of Human Resources Katherine Gardner says in a prepared statement issued Monday afternoon.

While the indictment focuses on activity with the Alaska Avalanche Spirit Booster Club and not the school district, MSBSD officials will check its records as well, the statement says.

“The district will be reviewing our own financial records to ensure that school funds have been managed appropriately. We are concerned about the seriousness of what has been alleged and will continue to monitor closely the investigation and outcome, but recognize that at present there are only charges and no convictions.”

A message left for Smith for reaction to the indictment was not returned by press time Monday evening.

A 1984 Wasilla High School graduate, Smith has been involved with the Junior Avalanche youth hockey association — not affiliated with the Alaska Avalanche — since 1993 and is currently that organization’s coaching director, a non-voting board position. Prior to accepting the Colony coaching job in September 2010, Smith coached and served in multiple front office positions with the Alaska Avalanche from 2005 through 2009, including serving as president of the Sprit Booster Club. Prior to that, he enjoyed a 16-year stint as Houston High School hockey coach, where he guided the Hawks program to six Greatland Conference titles and five Class 3A state hockey championships.

As to his association with Junior Avalanche youth hockey, board president Matt Ketchum said Smith is still the group’s coaching director and that there has been no hint of any financial malfeasance with his organization.

“I would like to make that distinction that (the indictment) was about the Alaska Avalanche, not us,” he said. “I know for a fact that our organization is in great financial shape and has nothing to do with the allegations of Mr. Smith.”

That Smith now faces felony charges is disappointing, Ketchum said, and not in keeping with his dealings with Smith.

“I’ve been aware of allegations for four years,” he said. “But as a matter of fact, all the dealings I’ve had with Mr. Smith have been extremely accurate, transparent, professional and legal.”

Former Alaska Avalanche owner Mark Lee said he had been out of town and was unaware the indictment had been handed down.

“This has been in the works for a couple of years,” Lee said Monday. “I’ve been on vacation for two weeks and just got back this morning.”

Lee declined to comment further on details of the investigation or Smith’s past with the Alaska Avalanche. The Alaska Avalanche franchise was sold following the 2011-2012 season and moved to Johnstown, Penn., where it now operates as the Johnstown Tomahawks.

The charges against Smith come after a lengthy investigation by the state Department of Revenue Criminal Investigations Unit, said Rob Henderson, an assistant attorney general with the state Office of Special Prosecutions. That the charges date back to June 2008 could also be a reflection of a five-year statute of limitations on prosecuting such crimes, he said, while adding that wouldn’t be the only factor in bringing a charge against a suspect.

That the Department of Revenue would be involved in the investigation could stem from the Sprit Booster Club holding a charitable gaming license from the state, said Scott Stair, investigations manager for the Criminal Investigation Unit.

Although Stair said he couldn’t comment specifically on Smith’s case, in general, “there are certain reporting requirements (with a charitable gaming license), and that’s a very common way we’ll get involved, but we also get a lot of tips.”

As for the statute of limitations, Stair said he’s not sure if more charges could have been possible if not for the five-year limit.

“Would it have been more? I don’t know,” he said. “But in these types of investigations, sometimes they can fall into the gray area.”

Contact reporter Greg Johnson at or 352-2269.

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  • Dontstartrumors posted at 4:32 pm on Sat, Mar 9, 2013.

    Dontstartrumors Posts: 1

    Matsumom, Sarah Palin only had ONE boyfriend in high school. This is common knowledge. Don't start rumors or comment on things you know nothing about :)

  • CallMeCrazy posted at 1:17 pm on Fri, Mar 8, 2013.

    CallMeCrazy Posts: 1

    I guess now we know how he and another good friend of his funded their lifestyles (embezzling/theft). It's also nice to have his good personal friend (Mr. Ketchum) defending him in the paper. Looks like there are a lot of people who Mr. Smith rubbed the wrong way and that everyone's gut feelings were right. I do feel bad for the kids but glad my kid wasn't affected. I think he "got away with it" he probably took a lot more money from the programs or gaming he ran.

  • why posted at 10:04 pm on Thu, Mar 7, 2013.

    why Posts: 1

    From what i know of Mr. Smith I dont think that he is a bad teacher. I dont know if he commited what he is being charged with or not. But in my gut I feel like there is more to him than meets the eye. I wouldn't be surprised if he was convicted but, in the same aspect, I would nither be surpised if he was innocent.

  • Jessica Rabbit posted at 5:55 pm on Thu, Mar 7, 2013.

    Jessica Rabbit Posts: 1

    Glad they caught him at something. He is NOT a good teacher and has been causing good kids trouble for thirty years, just wish it hadn't taken so long to take him down.

  • alaskan_style posted at 3:46 pm on Thu, Mar 7, 2013.

    alaskan_style Posts: 195

    To Jamie's dad aka knowthefacts:

    If Mr. Smith claimed he made $60,000 on his 1040, and the IRS investigators showed his income was $108,000, they'd look to see where the $48,000 came from.

    Any normal person, except you could figure that out. He swindelled the money, and was indicted by a Grand Jury for that. Whether he is guilty is to be determined.

    Your son is in a heap of trouble. It's too bad you do not know how criminal investigations work. This has nothing to do with charitable gaming, and everything to do with theft.

    Good luck on figuring it out- I'm through discussing this with a kook.

  • PainintheButte posted at 2:22 pm on Thu, Mar 7, 2013.

    PainintheButte Posts: 188

    Wow...It looks like it takes a pretty big rat to warrant all this nasty cheese....

  • knowthefacts posted at 1:57 pm on Thu, Mar 7, 2013.

    knowthefacts Posts: 9


    Perhaps you should take lessons on gaming reporting and 1040 reporting. Your lack of facts and knowledge, are showing how stupid you really are. After your done trialing this case, you may learn a thing or two.

  • knowthefacts posted at 10:49 am on Thu, Mar 7, 2013.

    knowthefacts Posts: 9


    MAHA or KM, right?

  • Be-bop-a-re-bop posted at 7:26 pm on Wed, Mar 6, 2013.

    Be-bop-a-re-bop Posts: 21

    Who'd he steal from? Early in the article: "allegations he defrauded the Alaska Avalanche Junior A program’s booster club." Later in the article, it says he did not steal from "Junior Avalanche youth hockey." So Junior Avalanche is OK, but Avalanche Junior lost money?! Do we so lack in creativity that we have to name all our hockey teams some variation of Junior and Avalanche? Sheesh.

  • smeyer posted at 9:34 am on Wed, Mar 6, 2013.

    smeyer Posts: 1

    rsdevero is indeed the master of sarcasm.... :)

  • alaskan_style posted at 6:03 am on Wed, Mar 6, 2013.

    alaskan_style Posts: 195

    you first, rsdevero. then knowthefacts.

    your both Jamie's parents defending him, right?

  • rsdevero posted at 9:23 pm on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    rsdevero Posts: 43

    I would like to suggest that the good citizens of Wasilla, and the state of Alaska for that matter, contribute to Mr. Smith's defense fund. He is going to need it because it's very likely that he has spent the $48,000 that he borrowed without permission. After all, he is a teacher and probably only makes about $60,000 to $70,000 dollars per year. That's not very much here in Alaska unless he has a summer job to supplement his meager teacher's salary. Perhaps a few of you good Samaritans would be willing to pick and click a few bucks out of your PFD to help Mr. Smith. It would only be fair especially if you make more money than he does as a teacher. Spread the wealth so to speak.

  • alaskan_style posted at 5:31 pm on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    alaskan_style Posts: 195

    The department of revenue at the state. read the article.

    the revenue department works with the irs to conclude charitable gaming versus 1040 filings.

    the feds and the state worked on this.

    figure it out.

  • knowthefacts posted at 3:29 pm on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    knowthefacts Posts: 9

    You crack me up alaskan_style. Do share where the IRS and FEDS indicted him! It's like a fish story, your 4 inches is 12inches? Perhaps you should do some homework about selling beer and wine at events. Like I say, know the facts before you open da mouth!

  • matsumom posted at 3:02 pm on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    matsumom Posts: 21

    ....lest we forget that he dated Sarah Palin in high complete.

  • alaskan_style posted at 2:52 pm on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    alaskan_style Posts: 195

    hey, knowthefacts:

    ok, smart guy, who sold the beer at the avs games?

    if the IRS and FEDS and state indicted him, certainly there is something to look at?

    the laugh is on you. pull your head out.

  • knowthefacts posted at 12:21 pm on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    knowthefacts Posts: 9

    What a joke, know the facts before spewing your venum. Start with booster clubs and alcohol, can't happen. Oh, and perhaps Mr. Lee can shed some light on JR A teams and the fact that you can't make money, hence the sale. And speaking of child hoods, you all crack me up, must have been yours that made you such an insecure idiot and your parents must have abused you, hence your stupidity! The truth and facts will come out and you will not have the last laugh! For those of you with your 10 - 20 year hang ups, get over it and grow up! You know who you are!

  • Fish posted at 12:10 pm on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    Fish Posts: 29

    Hockey in the valley is a joke anyway. How long has it been since we have been relavent in high school hockey? At least the valley is competitive in other sports. If it wasnt for beating other valley schools they would never win. Cut hockey and save a ton of money in high school sports.

  • knowthefacts posted at 12:07 pm on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    knowthefacts Posts: 9

    Know the facts and laws. Booster clubs can not do alcohol sales. It's commical of the trash that comes out to try and make someone look bad when they know nothing. People in glass houses should not throw stones. What a joke some of you are, and you know who you are. Mr. Smith by no means needs to blame his childhood for anything, as some of you seem to. Must have been how you were brought up to bring your nastiness bull crap out, shame on you and your parents! As to keeping a JR A team funded, perhaps you should ask Mr. Lee the facts as to what it entails, as he couldn't do it without continual losses, hence the sale. When it's all done and said, you will not have the last laugh! Oh, and those of you with 10 - 20 year hang ups, grow up and get over it! Know the facts or shut the trap!

  • knowthefacts posted at 11:49 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    knowthefacts Posts: 9

    People in glass houses should not throw stones. As many of you judge, don't forget to look in a mirror. Apparently you don't know the facts or laws if you think that beer sales can be done by a booster club. Your crazy comment's show that you know no facts and are just on a band wagon that will fall. I don't think Mr. Smith has to use a childhood problem as many others on here do, as an excuse for their ignorance. The truth will be told and there will be no doubt as to the integrity and honesty of this man. Shame on you for using accusations to crawl out of the stink hole you live in, to try to make someone who has given heart and soul to more children and people in his short life then you can by the time you put your own foot in the grave. Oh, and I do believe that if some will be honest, others know why the AV'S failed. There was no money to be made to sustain, obvious in the lack of community support. Just ask Mr. Lee as he was unable to make it work under his wings! There will be a last laugh...and it won't be you!

  • rightwing19 posted at 11:17 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    rightwing19 Posts: 2

    It's a awful thing and if he's guilty he'll have to pay for it. I think it's important not to mix up the Jr. Avalanche with Alaska Avalanche as they are in no way tied together. The people at MAHA would like to use this as some sort of tool to recruit kids and diminsh the quality experience the kids that play hockey with the Jr Avalanche are getting. While Jamie may have made mistakes, I have seen him with the kids and know he has done good by them, with that said he is only one of the many coaches that are involved with the Jr Avalanche. They have a great group of coaches that have developed and given very positive expereinces to many kids that they have worked with. MAHA should clean their closets that are full of coach drama in front of kids and around the rinks and then maybe they wouldn't need to use other peoples problems as their way of making themselves look better. Ohh and winning a game or two may help as well. Good Luck!!

  • alaskan_style posted at 10:37 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    alaskan_style Posts: 195

    you must not have bee there during the games....there were booster beer sales. he pilfered the money.

    so we let people break laws in America because of soemthing that happened in their childhood?

    are you freaking kidding me?

    a nice guy?

    i'm nice too- do you have 50 grand i can steal from you, rsdevero?


  • AK58 posted at 8:11 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    AK58 Posts: 121

    I think rsdevero meant that as sarcasm. I'm sure Mr Smith was bullied as a child and therefore thought stealing from children was warranted.
    One word of advice. Plea-deal!

  • alaskan_style posted at 7:02 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    alaskan_style Posts: 195

    yeah right! redevero, you're heard is buried deep in something...and it's not sand.

    pull it out for the sake of personal responsibility.

  • rsdevero posted at 6:08 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    rsdevero Posts: 43

    Look, from the tone of the article, Mr. Smith is a nice guy by all accounts. It looks like he will keep his teaching job and continue with his coaching activities. Just because he is apparently a thief and might have to go to jail if found guilty should not have any bearing on his current station in life. Something in his childhood probably has caused this behavior and it's not really his fault. The public should overlook this one small incident and have compassion.

  • alaskan_style posted at 3:21 pm on Mon, Mar 4, 2013.

    alaskan_style Posts: 195

    I told so many people this guy was bad news, and the Av's would fail.

    Who's the crazy guy now?


Friday Fling

LaMarr Anderson, outgoing president of the Palmer chapter of Rotary International, welcomes people to the first Friday Fling of the summer May 22. The popular street fair in downtown Palmer runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays through Aug. 14 and features live music and a variety of food and craft vendors. Onstage with Anderson are musician Lulu Smalls, Palmer Mayor DeLena Johnson, Joan Tulstop, owner of Magic Metals, and Kelly Larson, new president of Palmer Rotary.

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