By MICHAEL TAVOLIERO
On Feb17, 2021, the Alaska Republican Party District 14 (Eagle River) unanimously passed a resolution to censure D14 House Rep. Kelly Merrick.
Why was this done?
During District 14 meetings prior to the 2020 general and primary elections, Rep. Merrick officially and on several occasions announced that she would not caucus with the Alaska House Democrats.
This public announcement was a commitment to protect the integrity of the Alaska Republican Party platform in District 14 as well as secure support from D14 Alaska Republicans for Rep. Merrick’s upcoming election. Based on this commitment, D14 Alaska Republicans voted to support her.
On Feb. 11, Representative Merrick was the needed vote out of all Republican House members in attendance to elect District 32 Rep. Louise Stutes as Speaker of the House of the 32nd Legislature. In so doing, Rep. Merrick handed power and control of the Alaska House of Representatives to the Democrats.
Rep. Louise Stutes is the first Republican elected as House speaker since 2017. She came into the legislature in 2015. One of her first actions as a new legislator was to join the Musk Ox Coalition with other Republicans who then caucused with the Democrats.
Out of that coalition, she is the only legislator to survive the last election process.
By Feb. 15, Representative Merrick was named Co-Chair of the House Finance Committee and given a seat on the House Committee on Committees, which establishes the power and control of house representatives over agenda and each other. This typically is along party lines, which in this case is the Democratic party.
Was this series of actions a violation of Representative Merrick’s commitment to D14?
Was this an act of corruption?
After several requests by D14 Alaska Republican Party leaders to explain herself, Rep. Merrick has chosen not to respond.
On Feb. 17, the D14 Alaska Republican Party saw this as a violation of Rep. Merrick’s commitment and unanimously censured her.
Alaska State law appears to have no statutory definition of corruption but it is included in Alaska Statutes 15.45.510 as one of the grounds for recall.
Corruption is defined per Black’s Law Dictionary as: “a fiduciary’s or official’s use of a station or office to procure some benefit either personally or for someone else, contrary to the rights of others.”
The Alaska Supreme Court has directed that the recall statutes “should be liberally construed so that the people [are] permitted to vote and express their will.”
To date, no Alaska state legislator has ever been recalled.
On or before Feb. 11, Representative Merrick made the decision to vote for Representative Stutes as House Speaker.
Did she do this after discussion with her District 14 Alaska Republican party constituency? It appears not.
Did she do this after discussion with any of her Republican House members? It also appears not.
Instead, she met with members of the Alaska House Democratic Caucus.
This meeting included District 20 Rep. Zack Fields, a Democrat. The details of this meeting are not available, but the outcome resulted in Rep. Stutes becoming House Speaker.
Zack Fields is the director of business development at the Laborers Local 341 Union in Anchorage.
Joey Merrick, Rep. Merrick’s husband, is the business manager/secretary-treasurer of the Laborers Local 341 Union in Anchorage and is Zack Fields’ superior.
On Feb. 11, during the House session as recorded on “Gavel to Gavel,” Rep. Fields asked for unanimous consent to nominate Rep. Stutes as Speaker of the House. This was objected to and a roll call vote was held. The screenshot below tells what then happened.
Later that same day of Feb. 11, Rep. Merrick double downed on her stated commitment not to caucus with the Alaska House Democrats in writing officially announced, “To be clear, I have not joined the Alaska House Coalition. However, like most Alaskans, I have been frustrated by taking the same fruitless votes day after day and I felt we could no longer afford to delay extending the Governor’s emergency disaster declaration, crafting a fiscally conservative budget, and passing the construction jobs bill.”
Why would she out of all the other issues in front of the Alaska Legislature include “passing the construction jobs bill”?
Was this statement predicated upon her agreement with Rep. Zack Fields, Director of Business Development at the Laborers Local 341 Union, under orders from his superior, Joey Merrick, Rep. Merrick’s husband, who is the business manager/secretary-treasurer of the Laborers Local 341 Union?
The failsafe exoneration used by many politicos for this is the typical refrain, “That’s politics.” This is generally accepted by some but for others this is not acceptable.
Let’s examine this from a different angle.
When a person is used by others to accomplish something which is deliberately concealed from others, that person is deemed a patsy.
Was Rep. Merrick set up by Representative Fields and other Democrats to take the fall for yet another Alaska legislative controversy?
Was this even more stinging with the fingerprints of her own husband as the puppet master?
When a person, while acting in an official and fiduciary capacity, uses her station to wrongfully procure a benefit for herself and others which were contrary to her oath of office, her duty, and the rights of those she represents, is this corruption?
William Blake once wrote,
“A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.”
Michael Tavoliero is a realtor at Core Real Estate Group in Eagle River, is active in the Alaska Republican Party and chairs Eaglexit.