Readers: This statement by retired Judge Karl Johnstone was provided to members of the media. Must Read Alaska is printing it in full. Johnstone was the subject of a #metoo political attack by Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, shown above on the floor of the House and Senate joint session, when Spohnholz gave anonymous account of vague sexual harassment reports she had received from “more than two women.” Johnstone was not provided the opportunity to clear his name before a vote was taken on his appointment to the Board of Fisheries.
By KARL JOHNSTONE
Women have endured for too long various forms of sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere. I believe that legitimate claims should be taken seriously and investigated.
But let me be clear, I never made inappropriate sexual comments as stated by Rep. Ivy Spohnholz.
During the two weeks before my confirmation vote I appeared before the House and Senate Resource Committees for nearly 8 hours and answered many questions. Approximately 200 people testified in support and in opposition. Several hundred written comments were made in support and opposition. More comments were made on social media in support and in opposition, many anonymously. At no time did any of this information contain a claim or an inference that I engaged in the conduct stated by Rep. Spohnholz.
It was not until the very last minutes before a vote was taken that Rep. Spohnholz stated that within the last 24 hours she had been contacted by more than 2 women who worked for the Board of Fisheries when I was on the Board and who claimed I made inappropriate and unwelcome sexual comments. Rep. Spohnholz then stated they did not want their names disclosed because they feared retribution if I was put back on the Board. This was unfair and made no sense on many levels.
First, these claims were made at the very last minute and I was given no opportunity to respond. Several legislators objected to, in their words, this last minute, unsubstantiated character attack with no chance to respond.
Second, there was no information as to what I supposedly said, or when or where I said it. And, of course, Rep. Sponholz did not disclose the names making the claims.
The reason given for not providing names and supporting claim information makes no sense. Rep Spohnholz said they feared retribution if I went back to the Board of Fisheries. However, all women who worked for the Board of Fisheries support section while I was on the Board have left and found employment elsewhere. Even if they were still there, they could have no fear of retribution since Board members have absolutely no authority over staff. Staff work under the direction of the Executive Director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Finally, now that I am not on the Board, why has Rep. Spohnholz refused to disclose these names?
The answer seems clear. The charges made by Rep. Spohnholz were false.
Some people believe Rep. Spohnholz crossed the line. Three members of the House, while opposed to my appointment, publicly apologized and personally called me to apologize for the shameful conduct of their colleagues and said others felt the same. Many more comments to news outlets say the same.
I have thick skin and can take the hits, but it stings to know my four daughters have been hurt by this.
My appointment to the Board of Fisheries is no longer at stake. My hope is that the truth comes out because the only thing at stake now is my reputation.
All Alaskans should be concerned that the truth comes out. What happened to me can happen to anyone.
Karl Johnstone is a retired Alaska Superior Court judge and former chairman of the Board of Fisheries.