By CRAIG MEDRED
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy is now eyeing his next appointment to the Alaska Board of Fisheries with the dust stirred up around one of his last appointments still far from settled in the wake of a sexual harassment claim.
The Alaska Legislature on April 17 voted down the reappointment to the Board of retired Anchorage Superior Court Judge Karl Johnstone after Anchorage Rep. Ivy Spohnholz lobbed a #metoo bombshell into the proceedings.
Spohnholz said on the floor of a joint session of the House and Senate that “more than two” women who worked for the Board told her that Johnstone sexually harassed them. There was, and has been, no confirmation of those claims.
Johnstone was provided no hearing to defend himself against the accusation before his confirmation was blocked. It is widely believed the sexual harassment accusation was unleashed after Johnstone opponents concluded they didn’t have the votes to block the confirmation of a man who’d run into a firestorm of opposition from commercial fishermen accusing him of being biased in favor of sport fishermen.
Here’s what has happened since in the country’s biggest fishing state where major political battles have regularly erupted around fish:
- Former Commissioner of Fish and Game Cora Campbell, a woman who was regularly in attendance with Johnstone at BOF meetings, has added her name to the list of women saying they were not sexually harassed. And she said in an email to craigmedred.news that “no one reported concerns to me about Karl Johnstone and sexual harassment, and I never observed such behavior.” Campbell said that if she’d seen, heard or been told anything, she would have investigated and acted. Campbell is now the CEO of an Alaska fish processing company.
- Spohnholz in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News has revised downward to “two women” the alleged victims, but has not responded to a query asking why.
- Gov. Mike Dunleavy has offered an apology to Johnstone for the way the 78-year-old jurist was treated by the Legislature. Dunleavy thanked Johnstone for volunteering and wrote that he was “dismayed by the way our elected officials behaved during your confirmation.” In the letter, Dunleavy accused legislators of “character assassination” and “disenfranchisement (of) real victims of serious crimes.”
- No women have emerged to say they were harassed by Johnstone.
- Spohnholz has said on the House floor that she made a mistake in leveling the accusations against Johnstone and admitted that “due process” ideals were violated. But she added her feeling that she had to go public because the Legislature has no process for secret hearings to consider accusations against gubernatorial appointees.
- Spohnholz has continued to leave undefined the nature of the complaints against Johnstone. As of this time – in a situation where words matter – no one has a clue to what Johnstone is supposed to have said. Johnstone has said he never sexually harassed anyone, but the standards for verbal harassment – the sole charge of which Spohnholz publicly accused Johnstone – can vary widely from the most offensive sexual statements to something less.