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September 19, 2014

Pozonsky-Gate Demands Answers

I hate messy breakups, and boy did we have one this week.

Former Pennsylvania Judge Paul Pozonsky resigned as a workers’ compensation hearing officer for the State of Alaska Thursday, just days after I started asking exactly how he got hired.

Pozonsky apparently got the job after a closed application process was reopened just long enough for him to apply. For some reason, the fact that the former judge was under investigation by a Pennsylvania grand jury for ordering the destruction of evidence in 17 court cases, and that he resigned from the job last June after being stripped of his ability to hear criminal cases, was no barrier to his being hired to administer the law in Alaska.

I wanted answers from someone in the Parnell/Treadwell administration about how this happened. My goal wasn’t to have Pozonsky pack his bags so all the embarrassing questions would fade away. Nevertheless, all we’ve gotten so far is Pozonsky under the bus and a stonewall from the executive branch.

Certainly, it hasn’t been an easy week for Mr. Pozonsky and his family. Something very similar happened to his brother-in-law, Chuck Kopp, who was appointed by former Gov. Sarah Palin to replace Walt Monegan as commissioner of public safety and then was dropped like a hot potato after his history of sexual harassment accusations surfaced.

At the time, Sara Pozonsky, wife of the judge and sister to Kopp, wrote to Palin, “When you dismissed Chuck and accepted your VP nominee, you didn’t even look back to see the absolute devastation you caused his family. How can you champion our Christian faith when it seems you have no love or consideration for others except yourself?”

She had a point. Now, another rogue administration has pitched a member of her family overboard. How is it right to hire someone without even the most superficial vetting (like putting his name into Google), or tell him the skeletons in his closet won’t be an issue, and then toss him like yesterday’s pizza when the public starts asking questions?

The governor’s office, responding to questions from Daily News reporter Lisa Demer, said Parnell doesn’t know Paul or Sara Pozonsky and had no knowledge of Mr. Pozonsky’s hiring. So far the governor has expressed no curiosity about what happened in his Department of Labor, said nothing about whether the process meets the standards of his administration, and offered no assurances that he’ll get to the bottom of it and hold people accountable for their conduct.

Maybe I expect too much of a governor. This one certainly hasn’t shown much aptitude for leadership, unless you count trying to give Alaska’s money to the oil companies.

So how did a hiring window open, close, reopen and be filled by a disgraced judge from the other side of the continent? What was his “in?” Who did he know? What wheels got greased?

This state isn’t that big when it comes to personal connections of the political and religious variety. Chuck Kopp may not have gotten the commissioner job but he did make it onto the state payroll. Both he and his wife work for state Sen. Fred Dyson. Sara Pozonsky buys fish for her business from former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman.

But a line must be drawn when it comes to importing people to positions of power and authority who have absolutely no business in those jobs. Regardless of whom you know, where does the buck stop in this state?

Scandals cost money. Was Mr. Pozonsky paid to leave and keep quiet? No one will say. (His brother-in-law, Mr. Kopp, walked off with $10,000 — for two weeks on the job — after that debacle.)

We’ve got quite a heap of bodies piled on the altar of “resignation” to save the political face of the governor du jour. Walt Monegan, Kopp, former Attorney General Talis Colberg, former Fish and Game Commissioner Corey Rossi, to name just a few.

Former state Sen. Gene Therriault and former state Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom were both hired by the Parnell administration and then had to resign when it became clear their appointments violated state ethics law.

So far, the resignation strategy is working out for Gov. Parnell. He still has a job and Alaskans haven’t noticed that he doesn’t deserve it.

Yet.

Almost none of the questions about the Pozonsky affair have been answered. Neighbors, we have a terrible problem of systemic, anti-democratic secrecy in our state government. Confidentiality clauses are abused. Personal email accounts are used to bypass public records laws. Reporters asking for public records are forced to wait months or even years. This week, not a single state official involved in Pozonsky’s hiring would agree to be interviewed about it.

Well, the Legislature doesn’t have to sit on its hands. The Labor and Commerce committees need to hold hearings and demand real answers before confirming the new commissioner of labor.

Alaska deserves a more transparent government.

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Comments
11 Responses to “Pozonsky-Gate Demands Answers”
  1. PennLawyer says:

    Turns out that then PA. Judge Pozonsky was a good friend to Big Fracking/Range Resources, but the Pennsylvania Appellate Court just overturned Pozonsky’s ruling. That’s just what Alaskans do NOT need – another state official in the pocket of Big Oil/Gas.
    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/washington/sealed-settlement-on-washington-county-drilling-lawsuit-to-be-reconsidered-665406/
    A state appellate court ordered a Washington County court Friday to consider hearing arguments to unseal records in a case in which a Washington County family claimed it was harmed by nearby gas drilling.

    Stephanie and Chris Hallowich sued Range Resources, MarkWest Energy Partners and Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream Partners, claiming that gas drilling operations harmed their health and property value.

    A reporter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette objected to a closed-door proceeding in Pozonsky’s chambers, and the paper filed a petition a week later to intervene in the case and to unseal the record. The Washington Observer-Reporter filed a similar request, and the judge denied those requests in February.

    Superior Court Judges Judith Olson, Paula Ott and James Fitzgerald wrote in the decision issued Friday that Judge Pozonsky erred in denying the papers’ requests to intervene and argue that case file should be unsealed.

    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/washington/sealed-settlement-on-washington-county-drilling-lawsuit-to-be-reconsidered-665406/#ixzz2EkEP3Qfs

    See also: Time For A Review – It Doesn’t Pass The Smell Test
    http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2012/12/07/appeals-court-agrees-with-newspapers-in-sealed-fracking-case/

    “Let’s see, a “friendly local” Washington Court of Common Pleas Judge Paul Pozonsky, prevents the press from viewing sealed Court documents in the settlement between Range Resources (frackers) and a harmed-by-fracking Washington County family.”

    Appeals Court Agrees with Newspapers in Sealed Fracking Case
    stateimpact.npr.org
    A Pennsylvania appeals court has ruled in favor of two newspapers seeking to unseal court records in a fracking contamination case. Hallowich v. Range Resources is one

  2. Kelly M says:

    He absolutely does not deserve the job. He just screwed Southeast Alaska over by stopping the Alaska Class Ferry construction, swapping it out for two smaller vessels. I’m surprised he didn’t change it over to build a couple more useless light weight catamarans just for the finishing touch.

  3. Zyxomma says:

    What, there weren’t enough corrupt bastards in AK? Now the Parnell administration needs to import them from PA?

  4. goI3ig says:

    As the saying goes. You haven’t seen nothing yet! Wait until the session fires up with the cast of wing nuts that are running the show.

    Bob Lynn is already planning to disenfranchise those pesky native voters. In many village, the state doesn’t even offer a photo I.D.

  5. clif says:

    IS THIS WINGNUT SCANDAL SEASON?

    You have your state scandal centered in the governors office,

    and so does Texas;

    Of Cancer and Crony Capitalism in Texas

    http://firedoglake.com/2012/12/09/of-cancer-and-crony-capitalism/

    …. seems to be going around in wingnut circles these days.

  6. AKjah says:

    Thank you Jeanne,Linda And Shannon.

  7. Valley_Independent says:

    Thanks, Shannon, Jeanne, and Linda, for helping the citizens of Alaska dodge another bullet.

    Anyone who thinks Parnell and cronies will develop ethics is delusional.
    It’s sad that the rest of the Republicans fail to hold them accountable.
    It’s frustrating that the Democrats in the legislature do nothing to hold them accountable.
    It’s pathetic that so many citizens are either blissfully unaware or don’t care enough to hold them accountable.

    Alaskans will continue to pay the price until they demand better.

    • The Lawman says:

      That is what the court systems are for…start local, go state, then federal then international courts…oh well!

  8. bonefish says:

    I’m always amazed at Alaskan politics but, at the same time, have been thinking on this. Call me crazy but it seems to me that AK political going-on are a distillation of what is going on everywhere in this country. The difference is that AK’s corruption is right out in public and the corruption everywhere else is obscured by population and other concerns. Look at what is going on in Alaska, then look at what is going on behind closed doors everywhere else in the country. Same thing, different presentation.
    OK, call me crazy.

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