Pozonsky-gate. The Plot Thickens.
But wait, there’s more!
Not only did the hiring scandal of former Pennsylvania Judge Paul Pozonsky into the Parnell administration touch strange corners of Alaska politics, it seems that the Judge’s checkered history in Pennsylvania is not just limited to destruction of evidence in 17 drug cases, but it now appears he’s been doing some inappropriate favors for frackers in the name of keeping information from the press and the public by inappropriately sealing records.
Are we shocked? No, we are not.
Alaska politics are such that it takes a lot to consider something scandalous, let alone a soap opera. But Pozonaky has given Alaskan political junkies a holiday season extravaganza. It’s got it all – drugs, cash, sex scandal, religion, nepotism, and corruption at the highest levels.
For those of you needing a quick catch-up, you can follow along with this “Reduced Shakespeare Company” version of events.
The Cliff Notes
Sarah Palin fires Walt Monegan for not firing her ex-brother-in-law Trooper Mike Wooten. Palin gets roundly criticized. Palin hires Monegan’s replacement, Chuck Kopp. Kopp has some sexual harassment skeletons in his closet. Press discovers skeletons. Palin gets thrashed in the press. Palin pays Kopp $10,000 to go away after less than 2 weeks on the job. Kopp takes lousy low-paying job in the middle of nowhere. Kopp’s sister (Sara Pozonsky) sends Palin a scathing email calling her a bad Christian and asking her to “do something” for her brother, pointing out that he’s supported by people like State Senator Fred Dyson and former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman who are not bad Christians in her estimation. (Time passes) Fred Dyson hires Kopp as his Chief of Staff, and Kopp’s wife Trish as the rest of his staff. Oh, and Sara Pozonsky, partners with Trish Kopp, has been selling Loren Leman’s salmon in Pennsylvania for years. (More time passes)
Paul Pozonsky (Sara’s husband) is in big hot water on the other side of the continent. He’s made some hinky rulings, and ordered evidence destroyed in 17 drug cases, and can’t hear cases any more until they figure out exactly what happened and why nobody knows who exactly destroyed the drugs and cash, and how they were “destroyed.” The Pozonskys take a sudden two week vacation to Alaska. They come home and Pozonsky quits his job.
A nice job opens up as a hearing officer for workmans comp cases. Many apply. The application window is closed. A hire is imminent. (screechy brake noise) The window is opened. One more application is accepted, and that applicant, Paul Pozonsky, is hired and the Pozonskys move to Alaska.
Shannyn Moore gets wind of this, and breaks the news in her op-ed column in the Anchorage Daily News. Mudlflats follows up. The Anchorage Daily News follows up. Pennsylvanians read the story and have the usual reaction to anyone who treads into the muck of Alaska politics. It goes something like, “WHAT THE….??!!”
Paul Pozonsky resigns as suddenly and mysteriously as he was hired.
And that’s where we are now.
What the frack?
We learn now that Paul Pozonsky isn’t just a friend to the Xtian cabal in Alaska government (Dyson, Leman, Kopp, Palin, Parnell, et al.), he’s also a friend to something else near and dear to their hearts – Big Oil and Gas, specifically a few outfits known as Range Resources, processor MarkWest Energy Partners and processor Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream Partners. Range Resources was the first fracker of the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania, and one of the state’s leading gas developers. Range Resources’ CEO John Pinkerton appears regularly on CNBC’s Mad Money and Fox News.
Range Resources, and the other fracking companies above have all been sued by a Pennsylvania couple, Stephanie and Chris Hallowich who say that the companies are culpable for poisoning their water, and damaging their health by gas extraction near their home.
~Stephanie and Chris Hollowich, and their children
National Geographic featured an article in 2010 about the Hallowich family and their battles with these companies, and the impact of fracking on their lives, their home and their health.
The parties eventually reached a settlement, and a reporter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wanted to write about the story and find out what had happened. The press, and the people wanted to see the file. The fracking companies wanted the press and the public NOT to see the file. Judge Pozonsky obliged the latter and had the records sealed.
A reporter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette objected to the closed-door proceeding, 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.
But when Pozonsky fled the scene to enjoy his brief stint as a hearing officer in Alaska, this is being revisited. (my emphasis below)
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 of the most closely watched cases involving claims of health impacts and property damage against a Marcellus Shale gas driller. But when the case was settled, the Court of Common Pleas sealed all the records. Reporters from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had been barred by court employees from observing a hearing that had been held several days before it was listed on the public docket. The paper’s publisher sued, and was later joined by another daily newspaper, the Observer-Reporter.
In a ruling issued Friday, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania says the lower trial court erred in not considering the motion to unseal court records. The trial court had dismissed the newspaper’s motion because it was filed after the case was closed. The Superior Court ordered the Court of Common Pleas to take a look at the newspaper’s requests to unseal the record, and rule based on the merits of the case.
Well, how about that. I think the unsealed records should be very interesting.
Sara Pozonsky, of her move to Pennsylvania just before her husband was elected judge, said this:
“If he lost, he was going to have to move to Alaska, but he didn’t, so I took the plunge,” she said only half joking.
Well, I guess the plunge didn’t work out so well, and he “had” to move to Alaska after all. What’s next, we can only imagine but it sounds like bridges have been burned from one side of the country to the other.
Meanwhile, the weirdness and muck of the Alaska political web has stretched far and wide. We welcome our Pennsylvanian friends to the wonderful world of Alaskan politics. Pull on your boots, PA. Now you know why we call it The Mudflats.