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Sniffen resigned, as past conduct came back to haunt

Decades ago, a 17-year-old and her 27-year-old coach had a fling. The woman, now 47, came forward with the information to the Anchorage Daily News last week, telling of her tryst with the then-27-year-old Ed Sniffen, who was, until last week, Alaska’s Attorney General.

Others have corroborated the woman’s memory, saying they knew or had heard the events of 1991 when they were attending West High School and had traveled to New Orleans for a mock trial competition. Sniffen was their trial coach. The woman coming forward was their classmate.

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Adults beware: There is no statute of limitations on the crime of an adult engaging in sexual activity with a 17-year-old, when the adult is a teacher, coach, counselor.

According to the governor’s press office, the State is launching an outside investigation into possible criminal misconduct by Sniffen, who had been acting Attorney General since Kevin Clarkson resigned in August, after it was revealed that he was being overly forward in text messages with another State employee.

The newspaper began asking questions about Sniffen on Monday, and Sniffen resigned on Wednesday. The press office said the resignation announcement delay was so the governor could name a replacement. The replacement is Treg Taylor, who is an attorney in the Department of Law’s civil division.

The scandal came to light during the week when Gov. Mike Dunleavy would have been preparing to deliver his State of the State Address, which he did on Thursday from Anchorage, in the middle of the unraveling of his choice for Attorney General.

This is a tricky story for the Anchorage Daily News to tell, since the newspaper has had a widely understood anti-Dunleavy reporting stance, and stories like this reinforce the bias the newspaper is known for. The reporter, Kyle Hopkins, is underwritten by ProPublica, a leftist news organization. But it’s also a story that cannot be ignored, as there is a possible victim who deserves justice.

According to Influence Watch, ProPublica is a left-leaning news organization, whose donors include George Soros, the Sandler Foundation, the Emerson Collective of Laurene Powell Jobs (Steve Jobs) Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Donald Sussman, and other left-leaning organizations, such as Solidarity Giving.

Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
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.


  1. Forgive me but there is no adequate reason for me to resist being the first to say here that Sniffen was sniffing in the wrong place. But seriously, we all have to now question if having attorneys self-police themselves is serving Alaska well at all. It was not legal, nor was it acceptable by any reasonable standard in the 1990s to have someone have sex with an under-age student. This is not a situation of changing standards. For the Alaska Bar to accept this and to not even come forward when the fellow was Deputy Attorney General for the State of Alaska shows me that something has to change. We need a citizen panel to do what the Alaska Bar now does in the way of setting standards and making sure those standards are maintained. Had it been anybody but attorneys this would have been fixed long ago. Possibly this would not have weeded out Creepy Clarkson but it certainly would have caught this fellow when he committed the crime. And clearly, there is inadequate vetting to a remarkable and unprecedented degree in this administration, so they have some work to do straight away. If, as so many Alaskans say, the Department of Law is structurally disposed to hire politically motivated people as attorneys, and those attorneys are in fact politically far to the left of we Alaskans, so much so that a Republican administration must look outside the department to fill senior positions, then careful vetting must take place. Finally, and most importantly, this is Alaska, and men throughout the administration have raised daughters: They clearly know that Sniffen needs a thrashing, and the same was true for Clarkson. When this Governor ran for office he said he is not a woose. He shoots rifles in his ads. In the time of Biden we need the Alaska Governor to take care of this in a way that reassures us that we are Alaskans! Sniffen has shamed all of us by shaming this Governor. Fix it!

    • “It was not legal, nor was it acceptable by any reasonable standard in the 1990s to have someone have sex with an under-age student.”

      Correct. But, until the victim or someone with knowledge of the crime chooses to come forward and inform someone in authority, how would the Bar Association be able to “self-police?” They’re lawyers, not psychics.

  2. The Daily News had an infamous columnist/school teacher who retired unscathed with pension/health benefits after reportedly having affairs with students……….

    • Ah,yes….Satch Carlson. He was a “beloved” substitute teacher in the Anchorage School District and the reason the law now exists in this state deeming sexual conduct with students by teachers and coaches an unclassified felony. Prior to its passage, there was nothing the Anchorage School District could do to teachers, coaches, or security personnel who had consensual relationships with students the age of consent except fire them. And that depended on the integrity of the administrators in the particular school where they worked.

      Many people aren’t aware of what I’m about to write here. I tell what I know now that most of the key actors –including my father and most of his colleagues — have passed: Satch Carlson was the tip of the iceberg. He was part of a network of male teachers, coaches and security personnel who regularly participated in house parties with high school girls. My dad was a high school principal who, along with several other colleagues at other high schools, finally gathered evidence regarding this horror, they then handed it over to the Anchorage Police Department. I remember my dad coming home the same evening it was announced Satch Carlson was arrested and telling us APD notified him one of his teachers committed suicide. He ‘d been suspended because of his involvement with his students.

      • I remember the Carlson case very well. In fact, I went to an appearance by jazz and blues guitarist Abu Talim (Freddy Robinson) and because the case had just hit the papers, in the early ’90s, I asked if he would play :”Cherry Red,” one of my favorites, or “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,’ and old blues tune that I think PigPen from the Grateful Dead used to sing. Anyhow, Talib chose “Cherry Red” and dedicated it per my request to jazz critic Carlson, so the humor was lost.

        This is an old column by Sheila Toomey, the Alaska Ear, who lampooned Satch.

        PAST BLASTS … Steve Hutchings, a lawyer with Birch Horton here in town, was browsing through the Loussac Library used book sale last week when he spotted a copy of “Running on Empty,” a collection of writings by former teacher and long-ago ADN columnist Satch Carlson. “Whoa,” thought Hutchings, or words to that effect. “This has got to be a collector’s item.” So he shelled out a buck and took it home.

        Of course, this is understandable for a lawyer. After all, as far as Ear knows, there are only two laws in Alaska named for a person — and one is the Satch Carlson law. Ear won’t recap the sordid details but it raises the age of sexual consent from 16 to 18 if the adult involved is in a position of authority, like a teacher. (Enough said?)

        Turns out the book was more of a collector’s item than Steve thought. When he got it home and checked it out, he found an inscription on the inside cover that reads as follows:

        “To Tony and Susan, Mayor Slick, my man then, now and then again. Love, Satch, 1988.”

      • Without being explicit and naming names, wasn’t that teacher the brother of a longtime state senator?

  3. As always with these headline grabbing scandals, the timing is suspicious. Where was the complaint 30 years ago? Where was the complaint when Sniffen was hired in the first place? Okay, lets give the victim the benefit of the doubt and agree she was terrified/embarrassed to come forward… If this was her loss of virginity, a lot of psychological damage resulted. Timing still suspicious. I must say that Ed must resign and that this behavior is WRONG. But there is an element of hypocrisy in the accusers – these are the same people promoting promiscuity and abortion and teaching our kids how to do it in public schools. What do you think will be the result?! I’m am very tired of political vendettas based on claims of ancient scandalous behavior. I will resist the urge to preach further… Time for the left to own up to their immorality too.

    • What this so-called “man” is alleged to have done is an unclassified felony under Alaska criminal statute. That means there is no statute of limitations on it. That means this is a crime as serious as first degree murder. Not — as you would have any and all who read your comment believe — a “political vendetta based on….some ancient scandalous behavior.”

  4. If the story deserves to be told because the VICTIM deserves justice, why does any/so much (2 of 8 paragraphs) of your article focus on the journalist and the perceived bias of ADN? It seems like clear evidence of *your* bias.

  5. Bad choice on the part of Mr. Sniffen 30 some years ago. And per statute, a crime. Yet, waiting 30 years to report it? A murder might go unsolved for 30 years + because the perp is unknown. But these cases, where a number of people may know of or be aware of what happened, yet the matter goes unreported, until finally the suspected perp attains a certain place in life or notariety where there is some kind of advantage (political?) to report it….meanwhile memories fade and details/evidence/context of the moment may be lost. Not to mention justice is delayed for the victim & there is the possibility more victims occur in the interim……..

  6. If the article is correct, then Ed Sniffen should have known better 30 years ago. However, this is clearly not a situation involving sexual assault. The woman chose to go to his hotel room in New Orleans, and then choose to move in with him when they were back in Anchorage. The relationship would have been perfectly legal if they were married. Yes, you can get married before the age of 18 in Alaska.

    Between the consensual nature of the relationship and the fact that 3 decades have passed, this comes across as a vindictive effort to score a political point while destroying someone’s life for no good reason.

  7. Tricky? What’s tricky about it? This article shows far more about its author’s bias than it shows about the ADN’s. Any adult taking advantage of a minor is inexcusable. Suzanne, you seem to be trying to make lots of excuses for Sniffen. It was “decades ago,” it was just a “fling.” These words minimize his behavior, and ignore the very real probability that she was not his only underage “fling.”

    In a story such as this, it doesn’t matter that the ADN was reporting on it, or that ProPublica was involved. What matters is that, like you also said, there’s a victim who deserves justice. Political leanings should have no place in reporting a story such as this.

  8. Why did it take 30 years for this to come out? It is despicable that this ever happened however it is despicable that so many sat silent so long.
    Was there a cover up? If so, then a lot of others need to be taken down too.
    If this truly was a secret, I doubt the Governor knew anything about and there is no way to blame him.

  9. Governor Dunleavy needs to reorganize his staff. The knowledge of Sniffin’s alleged misconduct was widespread. He was not properly vetted. And that is just a dumb mistake by the Governor. His right hand man, Ben Stevens dropped the ball. His Boards and Commissions appointee dropped the ball as well.
    Regrettably this is a self imposed wound that may turn out more costly than the Gov thinks.
    A person can do many good things over a long period of time just to find they are totally forgotten because of a major screw up. Like this one. Maybe!

    • Sniffen was a long term employee of the Department of Law; whatever vetting he got was long ago under another administration. Assistant Attorney’s General are “Partially Exempt” employees and, frankly, most are hired for who they know and for the fact that they have a bar ticket and will work for State wages. Nobody looks very hard at PX employees’ backgrounds so long as somebody wants to hire them.

      I know if I were the Gov or COS I’d never promote a career Law employee to AG. To the extent that Department of Law employees are loyal at all, it is only to Democrats. The big mistake Gov. Dunleavy made was not going through with his threat to fire them all. No Republican Governor should ever make a Department of Law employee his/her AG; look no further than Bruce Bothello who set the table for Tony Knowles while he pretended to be Gov. Hickel’s AG. The real criticism here is that neither the Governor nor anybody around him has a clue how to run the State government.

      • All DOL employees are only loyal to Democrats? Puh-lease. DOL is in the business of prosecuting crime and protecting Alaska and its citizens.

        You might have a leg to stand on with respect to the Public Defender Agency, which is part of DOA.

        • I dealt pretty closely with the Department of Law Civil Division and had some dealings with the Criminal Division for twenty years. I could count on my fingers the number of them I dealt with who were conservative/Republican and the rest ranged for standard liberal useful idiot to outright communists.

          In my experience government lawyers come in three flavors; those that would starve to death in private practice, those who are good lawyers but don’t want the hassle and long hours of private practice, and those who are driven leftist ideologues.

      • Art:
        Sniffen was vetted by an earlier administration? Maybe, but I doubt it. The fact is that DOL rank and file attorneys are not vetted beyond an interview and on the basis of the content of their application, CV and job history. I doubt that hiring authorities even run attorney applicants through the NCIC to check for prior arrests or convictions of any kind. And that is because the Bar association is supposed to do that type of thing before a lawyer is admitted to the Bar
        Given that Sniffen’s predecessor engaged in very questionable behavior involving a woman, it made perfect sense to do a thorough vetting ( perhaps the first ever of Sniffen) before his appointment to a cabinet level position. His history with Ms. White would have almost immediately come to the surface. This was not just another job for a state lawyer. It was for the Attorney General’s position.

        • Uh…..the Alaska Bar Association never quiries prospective members about their sexual past or proclivities prior to admittance. I’m assuming that LGBTQ members are a favorable thing for the ABA to show off their inclusivity and pro forma standing with other bar associations across the country.

      • Frothing at the mouth again, Art? You shouldn’t get tested for COVID-19, but rather, hydrophobia.

        You never seem to miss the opportunity to display your deranged reasoning..

        Bothelo was both competent and non-partisan, unlike yourself. As A.G., he won billions from the oil industry for Alaskans. He settled the thorny mental health land trust case. He served four terms as Juneau mayor because he did a terrific job.

        What have you ever done in your miserable life, save for settling imagined wrongs against you in reader feedback in the Empire, the ADN, and right here?

        • People who think Bothello is non-partisan are deranged. If a Republican AG had settled those cases with the oil industry on the terms Bothello accepted his rotting carcass would have hung from the flagpole at the ADNs building for years to “encourage the others.” He settled for pennies on the dollar. He and Barbara Blasco, wife of Bothello’s CBJ attorney and consort of Bothello’s City Manager set the table while working for the Hickel Administration for Knowles’ sale of Hickel’s state sovereignty cases to special interests and agreed to dismiss many of them with prejudice so that the State can never bring the claims again. As to his tenure as mayor, first a water glass with D on it can get elected mayor of Juneau, but I will give him this much credit; Ulmer, also a D, was worse. His latest “non-partisan” act was to be Walker’s hatchet man in extirpating everyone from State government who’d ever had a Republican thought. I had the pleasure of assisting in the wrongful discharge suit of a lowly deputy director who got fired for having Republican parents; the Dunleavy administration wisely settled.

    • Yes, Bill Walker certainly does remember old Byron, as the sexual abuser-in-chief of underage victims in the Capitol. Chief Byron was Bill Walker’s soul brother, I’m assuming with many personal commonalities. Bill Walker left the governor’s office, disgraced and highly pissed-off. That’s why he still feeds his political lapdogs, like Scott Kendall, extra encouragement to strike at Dunleavy for messing with him. It’s smutt food for the envious.

    • Do you know something we don’t? I don’t remember Mallot’s problem ever being discussed in any detail.

      • Frank, I’m assuming you don’t live in Juneau? I’m assuming you don’t know about Byron Mallott’s storied career with Native Corps and young women? I’m assuming you don’t know what was going down with Mallott in the waning days of Walker’s first term? Of course, you wouldn’t know if your source of info is limited to ADN.
        btw, what’s your beef with Art Chance? He’s been around MRAK for years and is respected by all Truth seekers who come here.

  10. Enough already! Can any of these guys make it through a term without being caught or accused of sexual indecency. What will the consequences be for this 20 year old charge? I fault her for not saying something earlier. I fault him for putting himself into that situation.

  11. I smell BS. This is just amazing timing, is it not? After 29 years, out of left field, a sexual relationship that NOBODY in the faculty at West has an inkling? You gotta be kidding me. And Clarkson never was claimed to have had an inappropriate physical relationship with anyone and the woman he was texting and talking to was an adult, so get over it.

    • Robert
      You obviously don’t get it when it comes down to understanding Clarkson’s behavior.. he sent hundreds of texts to a female state employee many of which were somewhat suggestive and in many cases asking to fix her “dinner”. He was AG. She was a lower level State employee. The pressure on her was unrelenting as he pursued her:. It was inappropriate and stupid. And you can’t fix stupid.

      • So what? She is an adult, there are 20,000 state employees, she also texted him, “dinner” isn’t a sexual suggestion yet, there was no pressure on her, she told him she was uncomfortable and the whole thing ended. Get over your righteous indignation. Adults need to adult, she had control over the situation, obviously, because she called it. And yes, getting in trouble over a woman is stupid.

        • The AG is the top law enforcement officer in the state. The issue is not necessarily “is the outrage justified for a person who in 2020 engaged in this conduct.” Even if you don’t think his conduct was as egregious as most do… with Clarkson, the damning reality is that we do not want someone with such poor morals and bad personal and professional judgment leading Law.

        • It sounds like you are blaming the victim. How can you claim that she had control over the situation? How can you claim there was no pressure on her? You were not in her position. He was in a position of power within in the workplace. As, not only a lawyer, but the state’s chief law enforcer, he had a moral obligation to know what is right and what is wrong. He should know what the law is, and he broke it. A physical violation is not necessary for sexual harassment. It should not be her responsibility to say, “enough is enough.” It seems like you are part of the problem.

  12. Think, think, think before, (well you know) … these types of skeletons will always be alive and well and living in your closet!

  13. “Adults beware: There is no statute of limitations on the crime of an adult engaging in sexual activity with a 17-year-old, when the adult is a teacher, coach, counselor.”
    The 17 yo having a sexual relationship with some adult in authority is a fairly new law. It may not be possible to apply it to Sniffen retroactively.
    Alaska’s newer law, removing the statute of limitations, can be applied as far back as 1994,, if I remember right. It was in the news that a few sex offenders couldn’t be placed on the registry as their crimes were prior to that date.
    Federal law (source: Pacific Reporter) say’s that if a previous statute of limitations has expired, for a particular crime, prior to the effective date of a new statute, the new statute can’t be retroactively applied.
    The prior statute must not have expired, for a particular crime, for the new statute to be applied retroactively … which would make the new statute just an extension of the old.
    It would be useful for your readers to know this because it could forestall some of the outcry if Sniffen doesn’t get prosecuted.

    • However, that’s not the end of the issue. Retroactive application has been ruled constitutional in civil damages cases. The rational being that a person may not be aware of emotional trauma or psychological damage until many years after childhood abuse of any sort.
      The Catholic church’s litigation over past sexual abuses by priests or nuns for example.
      Sniffen could be facing some serious civil litigation where recently realized harm, like during treatment for depression exposes the root cause.
      Of course belated determination of root causes is very subjective, but if a jury (or judge) is persuaded, then a civil suit will carry.
      I read a civil case where the defense had only very technical arguments. The jurors were very carefully vetted, to find the ones with education and experience which would enable them to follow technical matters.
      Their defense succeeded because the selected jurors could comprehend the technical points.

  14. Ex Post Facto laws make this hard to prosecute. Violation of Article 1, Section 9, Clauses 3, 10 of the US Constitution. Neither Congress nor any state shall pass an ex post facto law, as pertaining to criminal statutes.
    Sniffin skates on this one. Of course, his former, ex post facto 17-year old girlfriend probably became a Lefty Democrat and signed the Dunleavy Recall petition.

    • Scott Kendall was involved in this outing of Sniffin. Kendall will do anything to embarrass Dunleavy for more signatures. Bill Walker taught Kendall everything he knows.

    • If there was an Alaska law enacted in 1990 regarding 17-year olds who were in sexual relationships with teachers or coaches, then it is not ex post facto. Consent will not work as a defense here. There could be a prosecution. Pure and simple, this is a political move by Democrats to embarrass Dunleavy.

  15. Yeah I don’t care what party your a member of, a 17-year-old can’t have a fling with a 27-year-old, much less a teacher. Pedophiles are the scum of the earth.

    • Her name is Nikki Dougherty White, age 47. An internet search reveals a long-ago photo of her. Blonde, glasses.
      Is that her, Pepe? She now lives out of state. Bet she is a Lefty Democrat, MeeToo, and was contacted by someone in Anchorage who is working hard to get the Dunleavy recall petition going again. Democrats love digging up sh*t and ruining people’s lives.

      • Yes, all of that was in the ADN so it’s her. At first she didn’t ring a bell at all but thinking back I remembered her, she was on the debate team, I knew her and talked with her a couple of times. I knew nothing about the scandal at the time.

        • What we will acknowledge is the suspicious timing of her accusation. 30 years later, when Sniffen gets a top government post, and hateful Democrats need 21,000 more signatures to get rid of Dunleavy????
          Only idiots can’t figure this out.
          Women who are MISERABLE and need to accuse someone for their wretched lives can always fallback on the stinky Democrat Party to dredge up a Republican suspect…….and target. Straight out of the old Left-wing playbook.
          Ever hear of Brett Kavenaugh?

          • Wow! Apparently, you do not believe in law and order. A 27-year-old lawyer, in a position of power, gets an underaged girl intoxicated and has sex with her, committed a felony. What makes it even more deplorable is, he is now Alaska’s top law enforcer. So we have a criminal fighting crimes. It does not make any difference what the motives of the people who finally came forward after 30 years. A crime is is a crime. A criminal is a criminal. Even after 30 years. If these allegations are true, he deserves to be indicted, concaved, and sentenced to a very long prison term. Even if he is a conservative Republican. Why don’t you believe in laws and justice?

  16. Okay, I see lots of posts here about how a 17 year old can’t have a fling with a 27 year old, which is absolutely crap. I met my husband when I was 17, he was 28. I turned 18 in July of that year. We were 10 years and 6 months apart. So if we hadn’t gotten married our relationship would have been a fling. If that were the case, I can’t even imagine 20 or 30 years later coming out and pressing charges against him. We were both in that together. I had dated other men older than myself before, so had many of my girl friends. I have an aunt whose husband was 20 years older than her. I know a couple more recently who was dating a man 20 years older than her at 17 and they eventually got married. My grandmother was 14 when she got married. You all act like these things never happen. Have you heard about all the dem teachers who’ve had relations with their students, lots of them are women. So this wasn’t a rape, or an assault or harassment this was consensual. I have a problem with women who have a consensual relationship with a man and then 20 or 30 years later call foul. Shoot they started having sex ed in school back in the 60’s, I can’t imagine by the 90’s that someone at 17 didn’t have the full scoop on how to negotiate sex and relationships. Maybe they didn’t teach that then.

    • It seems like you are missing the point. It is not that people who are 10 years apart cannot have a sexual relationship. The point is that it was against the law for a person in authority cannot have a sexual relationship with an underaged person. Does this occur? Obviously, that is why there is a law against it. It does not make any difference whether or not this was rape. It does not make any difference whether the deferential person consented to the sexual activity. It was against the law and therefore a crime. We cannot have an AG who has committed a felony. If you don’t like it, petition the government to change the law.

  17. Did your husband hold a position of authority over you when you met? This is what makes this issue significant. He was her coach.

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