Was a #metoo lie concocted to sabotage retired judge?




The day after the Alaska Legislature blocked the confirmation of a Board of Fisheries appointee amid allegations he sexually harassed multiple employees of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the state agency revealed it has no record of anyone filing even a single allegation.

The revelation does not clear retired Anchorage Superior Court Judge Karl Johnstone, a former Board of Fish chairman, but it does raise troubling questions because of the implications that either:

  1. Alaska Fish and Game supports a culture so toxic that women are afraid to report being sexually harassed, or
  2. A lie was concocted to sabotage Johnstone’s reappointment to the Board to provide legislators cover to carry out the wishes of his powerful political enemies in the commercial fishing industry.

Either of these scenarios is a possibility. Sexual harassment in the world of science has become a major issue since #metoo forced a public reckoning.

“When it comes to sexual harassment and sexual assault in science,” says the website 500 Women Scientists, “the evidence is clear. Seventy-one percent of women field researchers have received inappropriate sexual remarks and 26 percent reported experiencing sexual assault.”

500 Women Scientists was started by four graduate students at Colorado University Boulder who in 2016 wrote an open letter to scientific colleagues querying them about sexual harassment. They hoped, they later wrote, “to get 500 signatures – 500 seemed aspirational. We surpassed that goal within hours of posting the letter, and we continue to reach more and more….”

The organization’s home page opens to a photo of an empty ocean. Sexual harassment at sea – whether in the world of science or business – has long been a problem as another Alaska fisherman points out at the website StrengthoftheTides.org.

“…To ignore the dangerous rhetoric and abusive action of sexism within our own communities is to turn a blind eye to the unnecessary suffering many women experience on the commercial fishing grounds or in any maritime industries,” says the website. “Today, it is important to hold ourselves and the fleet accountable.”

The website was begun by Elma Burnham, a Bellingham, Wash., resident, who fishes Alaska’s Bristol Bay in the summer.

The original intent of the site, according to public radio’s KDLG, the voice of the Bay, was “to help women working in fisheries find safe places to work.”

Fish and Game officials said Friday they believe their agency represents one of those safe places. Stacie Bentley, the agency’s human resources director, said women employees are encouraged to report sexual harassment and provided robust protection if they do.

[Read the rest of this column at CraigMedred.news]


  1. My husband worked in the oil and gas industry for over 20 years in Alaska and was also a past president of the Petroleum Club. He was not only chased and grabbed by several different women; it was even attempted while in my presence. I have been waiting for years to read such an expose of the sexual harassment that many men endure in Alaska from women who do not respect boundaries. It is understood what the #METOO movement represents, I only wish it represented both sexes….. or however many there are in our present day.

  2. Every time that accusations of sexual
    harassment are proven to be false and motivated by politics or financial
    gain, it has a chilling affect on those who have been the victims of real sexual misconduct. It brings into question otherwise legitimate claims. If Rep Sponholz made up these charges just to sink the appointment of this man to the Board of Fisheries
    ( and the evidence is pointing in that direction) she did a disservice to the “me too” movement. When “me too” is used solely as a weapon, those using it need to suffer consequences, because not only is it terribly unfair to their target but to all women who have been the victims of sexual harassment.

    • Yessir AF and we’ll all be holding our breath until Johnstone proves these accusations are false.

      • Bill, No, I’m not holding my breath. Thus, you’re “we’ll ALL be holding our breath” isn’t a valid premise. Since I don’t jump to conclusions and am not an online commenter/Twitterer judge or jury, nor am I privy to the alleged evidence Rep. Sponholz has, I will continue thinking Johnstone, just like all people accused of any crime, to be innocent until proven otherwise in a courtroom.
        You seem to be missing the point that Alaskans First was making – false accusations harm those who are actual victims of sexual abuse or misconduct.
        You also seem to be missing Medred’s point – ADF&G has either allowed a toxic environment to work or if our politicians are weaponizing #metoo to discredit confirmations and thus discredit and harm the actual victims of sexual abuse. Either way, Johnstone’s confirmation goes beyond just him.

        • Ever hear of satire S??
          You’ve beaten around the bush enough explaining AF’s post so I’ll let you in on what I think is the only issue here. Sponholz said specifically that more than two women spoke to her in detail about inappropriate sexual comments made to them by Johnstone. Johnstone then has said that he has not made “inappropriate sexual comments.”
          Note that Johnstone did not say he had not made sexual comments. The word that separates these two is “inappropriate” and that people can disagree as to its meaning here.
          Since it is unlikely that three or more women would make this up the situation becomes one of what’s inappropriate to these women but thought completely appropriate to Johnstone. This appears to me to be just one of flirting in the workplace that didn’t work out as intended. The whole “sexual harassment” thing is someone’s wording to something that probably is more innocent IMO.
          There is not going to be any investigation into this either, also IMO. Thus there will not be any courtroom or innocence/guilty either.
          Since you missed my entire point, pretty much everything else you’ve said was off the mark, too.
          Just my opinion.

  3. Bill, what information do you have to base your opinions that this was some flirting in the workplace? And what do you make of Sponholz’s claim that more than two women called her? How many does that mean? Do you have any information of who they supposedly were or what was said or when and where it was said? Nope! Nobody does!
    KTVA ran a piece where Johnstone denied making any sexual comments? Please tell us what more he could do? And if these “more than two” women feared retribution by him if he went back to their workplace ( the Board of Fisheries) they certainly need not have that fear now. So why is Rep Sponholz still refusing to disclose their names. I have read many of your past comments and you seem like a person with good common sense. Do these totally unsubstantiated charges make sense? Your reluctance to
    give Johnstone the presumption of innocence is puzzling. Why should he have to prove he did nothing. Hard to prove a negative isn’t it? Is your commercial fishing background making it easier to drink the kool aid? I hope not.

    • Well AF, if you have a link to Johnstone saying something other than his quote in the above story (“But let me be clear, I never made inappropriate sexual comments as stated by Rep. Sponholz.”) please furnish it. Medred is usually pretty clear, especially when quoting someone but as I said, please proceed.
      As far as numbers go, more than two is the same thing as three or more-did you mean to say what it is that you are getting at here?
      Finally, my opinion about the flirting thing is based on the obvious difference of opinions between the women and Johnstone about the content of Johnstone’s comments. This is not rocket science and is not related to whether/not Johnstone needs to prove anything. As to whom gets the presumption of innocence is not a part of my opinion, just that different people have different ideas about “inappropriate.”

  4. It will happen again. Why? They were successful. The entire Republican delegation attending should have stood and immediately commented and shut her down. Instead it was one of the youngest and newest young Representatives that stood and stated how inappropriate the comments were. My hope is the Governor will find the most pro sports fishing person in AK to now appoint. What a shame! Commercial fisherman, shame on you!

  5. Well, in 2016 Gov. Walker blessed us with Poison Ivy. He appointed her to fill the seat held by Rep. Max Gruenberg who died in February of that year. Walker had three finalists presented to him by the Dems: Ivy, Taylor Brelsford, and Kendra Kloster. Walker went with Ivy. Her peeps voted for her at the next election. We’ll see if they will do it again.

  6. Craig Medred, as did the ADN, has given credibility to anonymous, unverified allegations from one legislator against a board nominee, during a joint session of the legislature considering confirmation of members to several state boards.

    The legislator, Ivy Sponholz levyed accusations of sexual harassment against nominee to the Board of Fish, Judge Karl Johnstone, supposedly by one of her constituents – a charge made anonymously. Even though the Alaska Department of Fish & Game responded by stating it, “revealed it has no record of anyone filing even a single allegation.”

    As reported by ADN, “Speaking on the House floor, Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, said she heard from two women who said Johnstone made ‘inappropriate and unwelcome sexual comments’ to them while previously serving on the Board. Spohnholz said the women ‘were not willing to testify on the record because of the fear of retribution.'” Johnstone is a former member of a previous fish board.

    Then Craig goes on to say, “the revelation does not clear retired Anchorage Superior Court Judge Karl Johnstone, a former Board of Fish chairman, but it does raise troubling questions because of the implications” ….. followed by several possibilities about the truthfulness and accuracy of the allegations. The actual anonymous allegations refered to by Ivy Sponholz were “comments.”

    Craig then argues the possibilities of the allegations, re: “comments,” because, it (they) “raises troubling questions because of the implications” ….. followed by several possible scenarios resulting from the anonymous allegations. He then uses relatively unknown advocacy groups to defend the anonymous allegations.

    Seriously Craig, you are arguing:
    a.) for the veracity of an anonymous, very serious allegation made in the heat of a political debate on a nominee to the most combative public board in Alaska; the Board of Fish – the fight over fish allocation between sport and commercial fish is without a doubt the most passionate,
    b.) that using anonymous, unverified allegations that even the ADF&G officially states they “have no record of,” to suggest the department has a toxic culture, “that women are afraid to report being sexually harassed.”

    There is nothing in this article to debate/discuss or opine on. The allegations were anonymous and unverified. Exactly! The allegations had no more credibility than bus stop gossip. Craig, you were absolutely out of line in the content, facts and theoretical elements of your article. You trashed a fine man with hearsay, then went on to trash ADF&G, re: their possible work culture.

    Craig, then you argue elements of the unfounded, unsubstantiated, anonymous allegation(s).
    Again, this isn’t an issue. There is no wrong doing. There is no criminal act. None! It’s hearsay! A legislator, in session, is allowed to trash an Alaska citizen with ANONYMOUS allegations, re: “sexual comments,” in a joint session board confirmation process. And you pen an article on what? Gossip!

    Unfortunately, Senate President Cathy Giessel and House Speaker Bryce Edgemont allowed the Sponholz’ allegation to stand – unbelievable. The testimony should never have been allowed on the joint session floor; or at least should have been stricken from the record. Ever hear of Robert’s Rules Of Order. It applies in any deliberative body.

    This was a political hit job. Nothing more. And Craig, you like ADN, gave it credibility and elevated it to public discourse. As a “journalist” you should know better and demonstrate more restraint. This whole debacle wrongly destroyed a good man’s reputation, definitely affected his family and his standing in the Alaska community. The issue isn’t fairness – life isn’t always fair. It’s what’s right or wrong. And, you were wrong!

    People, no one should be allowed to go on the record with anonymous, unverified accusations against anyone, regardless of the situation. That is not free speech! Put the name of the VICTIM AND ACCUSER ON THE RECORD. Put all the facts out there so the involved agencies and individuals may respond, and the public can vett the veracity of the accusations. How cowardly to deny the accused and ADF&G a rebuttle – particularly when the agency formerly denies any record of a complaint.

    People, don’t allow those with personal/political agendas to use you to further their agenda. We’ve all had it happen to us. Stop it at the source! We all have a responsibility to promote civil and accurate discourse. We should all be writing/calling the legislative leadership! This is not how our legislators best serve Alaskans.

    For the record, I do not know, nor have I ever met Karl Johnstone. However, I have a conscious, and know right from wrong. And note I did sign my name to my comment!

    Attached is the Hyperlink to the ADN article.

  7. Larry: All of the accusations you level against me would be true if I wrote that story knowing that Rep. Spohnholz was lying. I don’t know that. If you know that, some evidence to support your belief would be helpful.

    I expect all Alaska legislators to tell the truth on the floor of the Legislature. We should all expect that unless there is evidence to the contrary. There is no evidence to the contrary in this case.

    Thus we are left with Rep. Spohnholz’s word that multiple women came to her with similar accusations, and from that follows the conundrum of the moment. Not knowing who said/did what to whom if anything, all we have to rely on is Rep. Spohnholz’s belief that a serious infraction took place that was not reported to Alaska Department of Fish and Game supervisors.

    If 33 members of the Legislature believe that is what happened, they should be demanding an investigation into the agency. If even one of them, believes that – and clearly Rep. Spohnolz does – the body should be demanding an investigation into the agency.

    Either this happened or it didn’t. If it happened, someone needs to find out who said/did what to whom and where and when and how, and if it didn’t happen, Mr. Johnstone is due an apology.

    This is not, at this time, a matter of opinions; it is a matter facts. Facts are important to me. It’s an old-school journalist thing. Opinions – our personal and/or collective judgments – should wait until after the facts are in, and the facts in this case are still missing.

    If, as you say, you “know right from wrong,” you should want the facts as much as anyone. The reality of the world today is that there are hostile workplaces wherein women are so afraid of the consequences of saying anything that they tolerate sexual harassment or sometimes worse.

    One cannot simply dismiss the possibility of that here because the allegations are anonymous. Our daughters wouldn’t approve.

    • Craig,

      You are absolutely correct, if what Ivy said happened actually occurred then the state should be looking into it and if it didn’t occur the state should be looking into it. In the first case it should be looking into sexual harassment within F&G, in the second it should be looking into a State Representative subverting due process. If our state representatives are running around yelling fire in theaters when there is no fire then something must be done, and if there is a fire then we need to put it out.

  8. Denim Day tomorrow, April 24th.

    Interesting to see that Governor Dunleavy believes in “rape culture”. Where is this culture and how is wearing denim bringing awareness to it?

    Get woke, go broke. Oh wait…

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