Parnell Hiring Scandal leads back to Dyson, Kopp, Palin
Chuck Kopp, Chief of Staff to Republican State Senator Fred Dyson, and a two-week Palin administration official, dismissed over a sex scandal is now at the center of another firestorm – the controversial hiring of his brother-in-law Paul Pozonsky by the Parnell administration.
Pozonsky, a Pennsylvania judge under investigation for destroying evidence (including crack cocaine and cash) in 17 criminal cases was hired by the Parnell administration as an Alaska hearings officer. He was given the job despite his late application, the fact that the current investigation has stripped him of his ability to hear cases, and that he was the subject of a year-long protection from abuse order for domestic violence.
A few months ago, the hearing officer position with the Workers’ Compensation Board opened. Applications arrived, the application process closed, resumes were reviewed, candidates were interviewed and a hiring decision appeared imminent. But then something happened. The application process was re-opened, a new application arrived, and a late applicant, Paul Pozonsky, got hired.
To fully appreciate this story, we’ll need to travel back in time to … Troopergate. I’ll give you a moment to let your body adjust to the new time change. It’s the summer of 2008. The tangled and incestuous web of Alaska politics always seems to lead back to the same places.
Chuck Kopp was the Chief of Police in Kenai, and appeared seemingly out of nowhere to replace Sarah Palin’s Commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan. The latter, as you may recall, was summarily dismissed after refusing to fire Palin’s ex-brother-in law Mike Wooten, then a state trooper. The details of the Troopergate investigation are readily available, and for our purposes here, it all begins when Monegan was terminated.
Kopp, a newcomer to the public consciousness, was suggested to Palin for Monegan’s now vacant position by her head of Boards and Commissions, Frank Bailey. He discussed the appointment in his memoir, Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin. Kopp ran in the same religious and politically circles as Palin, many on her staff, and Lt. Governor Sean Parnell. Days before Palin had her Chief of Staff Mike Nizich (who is also current Governor Parnell’s Chief of Staff) bring the hammer down on Monegan, Bailey received an email from Kopp:
“If the administration is unhappy and looking for a change, let’s talk in person when you get a chance.”
Kopp had been a member of governor-elect Palin’s Department of Public Safety transition team, when she ascended to the governor’s chair in 2006. In addition, he was also a sitting member of the Alaska Judicial Council, the body charged with reviewing candidates applying for state judgeships.
Kopp not only had a public safety and judicial background, but was also willing to play ball where Monegan was not. Bailey emailed Palin, and made reference to the “bad cops,” including Wooten, that Kopp would address if hired as Commissioner of Public Safety:
“He’s also 110% onboard with dealing [with] some of the embarrassing issues that have blackened the eye of the entire Trooper (sic) around the state, namely Spitzer, Osborn, etc. I’m sure he’d take the Wooten thing seriously.”
Two days after that email, Kopp was in Anchorage interviewing with Mike Nizich. He was immediately hired. Palin emailed Parnell and told him not to worry: “We’re replacing Walt with Chuck Kopp. It’s all good.”
But it was most definitely not all good. Things went south quickly when details of a sexual harassment suit filed against Kopp while he was Chief of Police in Kenai resurfaced. Kopp swore that the administration knew about it beforehand. Palin said she didn’t. Regardless, it became obvious that the Palin administration had not adequately vetted Monegan’s replacement, and she lurched from the politically disastrous firing of Monegan to the equally disastrous public vetting of a sex scandal involving his replacement. In an interview, Kopp famously asserted “I am not a sex harasser” and swore innocence. Palin stuck by him briefly, but ultimately decided to cut and run. Kopp was asked to step down. He resigned less than two weeks into the job.
He also received a severance check of $10,000 for his two weeks’ trouble. Monegan got nothing. Sources close to the situation revealed that Kopp was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement ahead of the payment, and it was quickly dubbed “hush money.”
In November of 2008, Palin returned from her unsuccessful national election to reclaim, and run her state with Lt. Governor Sean Parnell. Four months after Kopp’s speedy dismissal, and only days after her return, Palin Communications Director Sharon Leighow, and Frank Bailey received an email with a request it be forwarded to Governor Palin. The email began: “Dear Governor Palin, My name is Sara Pozonsky and I am Chuck Kopp’s sister…”
The lengthy email went on to detail the anger and frustration Kopp’s sister had been feeling regarding her brother’s dismissal, including the fact that he’d given up his position as Chief of Police in Kenai only one year before his retirement eligibility. Left with no seniority and no job, he’d been forced to relocate to King Salmon at a low level job, receiving about half his previous pay, leaving his family in Anchorage and struggling to keep his home, and his children enrolled in private Christian schools there.
Now, after frantically searching for a job, Chuck has had to accept a job as the lowest ranking police officer out in King Salmon taking at least half of what his salary was as Chief in Kenai. He almost lost his house as he could not afford to make the payments but God miraculously provided a family to lease his home in Kenai for a year. He has a son at Letourneau University in Texas and a daughter who is a senior at Grace Christian, plus a 7 year son who also attends Grace Christian. Through financial support of his friends, parents, and his siblings, Chuck & Trish have been able to somehow financially survive.
The email goes on to chastise Palin for not sticking with Kopp and worrying only about herself and her potential Vice-Presidential nomination. “How can you champion our Christian faith when it seems you have no love or consideration for others except yourself,” Pozonsky scolded.
Pozonsky pointed out other influential Alaskan politicians of the evangelical Christian persuasion who had rallied behind Kopp, and whose requests for Palin to support him fell on deaf ears. Most notable were current Republican State Senator Fred Dyson, and former Republican Lt. Governor Loren Leman, both of whom are defined politically by their extreme and outspoken religious, and socially conservative views.
It’s truly amazing to see evil prevail; although I believe that in the end the Lord will raise Chuck back up and put him back on solid ground – Waiting is the hard part. The Bible tells us to let God be our vindicator but yet I see you fighting back in the press – trying to clear your name and keep a good reputation. Chuck could have been on any TV show he wanted – gotten paid a fortune for his interview if he would have only told his story. Much of that story would not have painted you in such a perfect light. Because Chuck knew it was all stemmed from Liberal Democrats wanting to bash conservatives, he chose not to go out there and tell his side of things.
Or, he’d signed a non-disclosure agreement before collecting his check.
The letter ends with a plea for help and a contact phone number.
Our entire family remains on our knees asking God for His guidance, HELP, and restoration in Chuck’s life. I have been begging God not to forget Chuck out there in King Salmon and hopefully restore him soon. I just thought I’d send you this note to see if it might prompt you to do something on his behalf.
It’s not clear what if anything Pozonsky wanted done on his behalf, or what may have been done on Kopp’s behalf by Palin, but in 2011 Kopp was honored for his service on the Alaska Judicial Council.
He’s also no longer a low-level cop in King Salmon, and is instead in Juneau as the current Chief of Staff of the aforementioned Senator Fred Dyson. His wife Trish Kopp is the other member of Dyson’s staff. Dyson should clearly be able to hire whomever he wishes to staff his legislative office. And I’m sure that Trish Kopp appreciates being able to stay close to her husband’s office.
But now, Paul Pozonsky, Kopp’s ne’er do well brother-in-law under investigation in Pennsylvania for destroying evidence through his judgeship was hired by the Parnell administration, out of the blue, based upon a late application, as a hearings officer? That’s a whole other kettle of fish.
Presumably, Pozonsky is now planning to flee the Keystone State, leave his past behind, and relocate to Alaska where his wife and step children can be reunited with the extended family as he settles in to his nice state job.
I guess things are looking up for the extended Kopp family. Fascinating how it all worked out, isn’t it?
~Governor Sean Parnell, Senator Fred Dyson, and Chief of Staff Chuck Kopp