Alcohol Beverage Control Board votes to oust director - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, October 17, 2021
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Alcohol Beverage Control Board votes to oust director

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The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board voted to fire Erika McConnell, the director of the Alcohol Marijuana Control Office. The issue involves competency and character, according to documents posted at the agency’s website.

On Thursday, the board met in private to review McConnell’s performance. She had been hired in 2017 to replace Cynthia Franklin and had come from a cannabis regulatory background with the Municipality of Anchorage.

Documents show that for several weeks there has been an issue simmering between the board and the director over allegations that McConnell and members of her staff somehow circumvented Department of Public Safety chain of command in regards to background checks.

McConnell vigorously denies the allegations, which were made by Board Member Rex Leath, a State Wildlife Trooper who has the Public Safety seat on the board.

In September, McConnell retained a lawyer and issued a letter to the board defending her actions regarding access to law enforcement files that staff use.

No reason was given for the vote to remove McConnell from her position, but Libby Bakalar, her personal lawyer, has sent a letter reminding the board that the Marijuana Control Board must concur with the decision.

Bakalar is herself suing the Dunleavy Administration for releasing her from service last December, when Gov. Michael Dunleavy took office.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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