DEMOCRAT POSSE ATTACKS SECOND WOMAN NOMINEE
The House State Affairs Committee was a rough neighborhood for Public Safety Commissioner nominee Amanda Price on Friday. The Democrat-led committee co-chairman and his posse had come loaded for bear.
The first clue was when Rep. Zack Fields asked Price to go to the unusual measure of swearing herself in under oath before the committee. No commissioner in a confirmation interview has to swear on a Bible. It was a gotcha.
Price demurred taking part in the theater that Fields wanted to create for the cameras. Fields asked her to explain why, and she responded that since no other commissioner designee has ever been asked to do so in Alaska history, she’d take a pass.
Price is the second female commissioner designee that Fields has attacked with an intent to kill her appointment. His first victim was Kelly Tshibaka, commissioner designee of Administration. Tshibaka’s fault was being a Christian, although Fields says he was talking about her beliefs about homosexuality being a disqualifier for employment with the State.
Rep. Adam Wool served as Field’s wingman, and opened the salvos against Price on Friday with a line of questions about how Price’s work with the Walker Administration ended. He was warming her up for the battering to follow.
Price, who had served as Walker’s crime policy and prevention advisor, said that her challenges with the Walker Administration came in part because she was not a proponent of SB 91, the omnibus criminal justice reform package that Walker signed into law.
Since that law passed, crime has become epidemic and criminals were cycling in and out of jail under the liberalized provisions of the law, which has since been somewhat reined in.
“We were not on the same page with regards to public safety, and several of the proposals that Gov. Walker made to me I vehemently did not support, and so it stopped making sense,” she said, describing her tenure in the Walker Administration as challenging.
Wool’s verbal probing continued, as he said that her concern seemed to be before SB 91 was even signed into law, inferring that she had been too hasty in her judgment of the law. Wool is on record as a proponent of SB 91.
Rep. Fields then piled on: “Ms. Price, did you leave the Walker Administration under your own volition?”
“I’m going to say no,” Price said. “It was clear that it wasn’t working. I had already packed a box in my office and knew that I was going to be leaving. The governor and I had had many challenging conversations. I was not happy there. I don’t think they were happy with me at that time.”
She was let go by Gov. Walker’s Chief of Staff Scott Kendall about three months after Kendall came on board, replacing Jim Whitaker. Price described the conversation in which they agreed it was time for her to go as polite and professional, and that he gave no specific reason for their decision.
Fields challenged her, saying that in another committee she said she left the Walker Administration because of differences over SB 91.
Price said that her statement was not inconsistent, because her role of trying to provide the governor with information from law enforcement professionals she had heard from who were opposed to SB 91 put her in an adversarial position. “It was one of the reasons that I failed to be influential in that administration.”
Fields then brought in what he thought was his big gun.
He asked Price if it was because she didn’t share Walker’s vision or if it was work ethic and other work performance issues.
Price noted that former Deputy Chief of Staff Marcia Davis and former Chief of Staff Whitaker, both prior to Kendall, had both given her positive recommendations.
Fields then asked her if she had ever presented work that was not her own as her own work.
“To the best of my ability to answer that question, no,” she said.
Fields wouldn’t let up. He referred to public records requests by the media “regarding allegations of plagiarism, absenteeism, and misleading members of the Legislature about why you departed the Walker Administration. Are you aware of why the Administration has not complied with the requirements of the Public Record Act and still has not substantively responded to these requests?”
She wasn’t aware of those because she’s not a party to those discussions, she said.
“You were not aware that a member of the governor’s staff had corresponded with at least one member of the media repeatedly stonewalling in response to a public records act request that occurred over two months ago?” Fields asked.
“Rep. Fields, that feels like a very opinionated statement.” she said, adding she was aware of a public request but not about Fields’ list of allegations. The two spoke over each other briefly before Price asked if she’d be allowed to answer his question.
During the public testimony section of the hearing, several people spoke on Price’s behalf.
That’s not enough for Fields, who wants former Chief of Staff Scott Kendall to be brought into the committee to discuss his views of Price. And if he won’t come in, Fields might subpoena him.
Kendall has said he would not discuss a personnel matter with the committee unless Price waived the confidentiality requirement afforded to state employees.
Price has said she won’t waive any of her rights.
Fields pressed onward, and asked her about a foreclosure that appears on the court record. Price responded that after her husband was injured in an accident as an Anchorage firefighter, the family experienced financial hardship and their home was foreclosed on.
Price worked for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Heart Association, and Standing Together Against Rape. Her grandfather, father, and husband are all in public safety. Members of the committee seemed particularly concerned that she has never worked as a police officer or trooper.
Must Read Alaska has obtained the letter written by Price’s former direct supervisor, Walker’s Deputy Chief of Staff Marcia Davis and the one from former Chief of Staff Jim Whitaker.
Although Kendall’s letter was entered into the committee’s document page online, these letters were not admitted by the committee chairs to be included as part of the record:
I served as Governor Walker’s deputy chief of staff during the same time period that Jim Whitaker was chief of staff. I interviewed Amanda Price prior to her hiring as a Policy Analyst and was extremely impressed with her professionalism and commitment to the fight against sexual abuse in our state in her position as Executive Director at STAR.
I was her direct supervisor during her time with Governor Walker. Amanda was an outstanding worker. She worked hard, smart and with intense focus. She was strongly motivated to achieve our policy objectives of reducing sexual assault crimes and she tackled the problem strategically. She created alliances with law enforcement at all levels within the state and gained their buy-in to improve the speed of processing sex crime kits. She helped DOS improve standards and processes at the crime lab to lessen their bottleneck in kit processing. She did all of the heavy lifting to put together a federal grant application which brought the state over a million dollars to pay to speed up that processing.
Amanda’s personal and professional ethics were beyond reproach. I fully support her appointment as DPS commissioner and know that she will move the Department forward into the 21st century quickly and efficiently. We citizens are extremely fortunate to have her at the DPS helm.