GOVERNOR’S EXPLANATION LEAVES QUESTIONS
The Governor’s Office has clammed up about what Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott did and when he did it.
But the rumors are flying: It happened at AFN Elders and Youth Conference. No, it happened at Tanana Chiefs Conference, and the person is in law enforcement. No, it was that Mallott told First Lady Donna Walker to go “F–” herself. No, it’s back to AFN and Mallott propositioned an underage girl, “If you were a bit older and I wasn’t married …
They are rumors, they are all over the map, but none of them explain to the public why Mallott was forced to sign a letter of resignation — clearly a letter that he did not write himself.
The governor does not have the power to fire the lieutenant governor. However, he does have the ability to blackmail him.
Mallott’s adversary Mark Begich also has the means and motive to blackmail him. The Mallott-Begich relationship can be described as tense, if not hostile. Bad blood exists between those two.
A man like Mallott, full of Tlingit pride and an elder in the Native community, just doesn’t humiliate himself like this and sign a letter of contrition for an “inappropriate” remark to a 17-year-old.
WHO REPORTS TO WHOM?
The public is the entity to which Mallott reports, and the public is not being told why their lieutenant governor cleaned out his desk and was gone in a flash.
The public has a right to know, but the Governor’s Office is treating the matter as though Mallott was an employee of the governor, not the public.
The three rules of crisis communication are that you are first, you are right, and you are credible. At this point, the Governor’s Office has not met the minimum requirement of any of these rules. The explanations offered have instead appeared politically motivated.
The official story has also morphed. Here’s a timeline of what we’ve been told:
Sunday: Something happens. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott does something wrong. The Governor’s Office is not saying more.
Monday: Gov. Bill Walker is made aware by his Chief of Staff Scott Kendall on Monday afternoon that Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott had made “inappropriate comments” to a woman.
Monday night: Walker and Mallott discuss the matter on Monday night.
Tuesday morning: Walker and Mallott continue their discussion.
Tuesday 11:30 am: The governor heads to Anchorage Downtown Rotary to debate Mike Dunleavy and Mark Begich. He angrily lashes out at Dunleavy and at one point challenges him to a one-on-one debate, which Dunleavy accepts in concept. The debate ends and Walker huddles with his wife Donna, his daughter Lindsay, and his campaign manager John-Henry Heckendorn in a corner of the Dena’ina Center, talking intensely.
Tuesday early afternoon: Gov. Walker heads to the Atwood Building, goes to the 17th floor, and swears in Valerie Davidson as lieutenant governor — in secret. It is not known at this time when he accepted the letter of resignation from Byron Mallott.
Tuesday mid-afternoon: Walker assembles a press conference and says that he had sworn in Davidson “this morning or early afternoon.” Walker makes a brief statement. Davidson makes a brief statement. The two depart the conference room without taking questions. They leave Austin Baird, their press secretary, and Grace Jang, deputy press secretary to romance the media, since both of them have close relationships with the press. Chief of Staff Scott Kendall is nowhere to be seen in any of these proceedings.
Austin Baird, the governor’s press secretary, tells the press corps that they’ll have more information later. Reporters badger him for information.
Grace Jang explains the governor learned of the events “late” Monday night, and says the lieutenant governor takes full responsibility.
Baird and Jang provide photos of the swearing in of Davidson and a copy of the resignation letter during the press announcement, but do not post the video of the historic events.
The Governor’s Office later furthers the explanation saying that the behavior involved an inappropriate “overture.”