On road to appointing new AG, Clarkson’s resignation is only first step

After governor names appointee, it will be up to Legislature to confirm
With Kevin Clarkson's resignation, the appointment of a new attorney general is back in hands of Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
Published: Aug. 26, 2020 at 12:31 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska’s now-former Attorney General has resigned from his post following accusations of inappropriate conduct with a fellow state employee. Since then, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has accepted his resignation, and an interim attorney general has been named, but who will officially become the state’s top attorney remains unclear.

Clarkson, meanwhile, is now permanently out-of-office after his abrupt departure this week, following a lengthy absence from his state-appointed position.

[RELATED: Attorney General Kevin Clarkson resigns after inappropriate text messages]

In records initially obtained by the Anchorage Daily News, in partnership with ProPublica, Clarkson’s leave was apparently prompted by a junior-level state employee - outside of the Department of Law - raising concerns about hundreds of text messages sent to her by Clarkson. The messages were reportedly send from Clarkson to the woman’s personal cell phone in March, and included advances such as multiple invitations to his private residence.

“In June, the Department of Law denied our request for the messages,” said ADN reporter Kyle Hopkins, who led the investigation into Clarkson’s alleged behaviors. “We made a records request, they said ‘No,’ and we kept reporting.

“We were able to eventually obtain the messages from another source,” he said. “Clarkson texted this woman at least 558 times in just 27 days. And that includes 18 invitations for her to come to his house.”

Clarkson submitted his resignation letter, dated Aug. 24, 2020, to the office of the governor, writing in part that, “I regret that my actions and errors in judgment in interacting with a state employee have become a distraction... I respect and admire you and regard you as a friend. I sincerely apologize to you for my lapse of judgment. I am carefully considering my next steps. I hereby tender my resignation to you in order to alleviate this situation and allow you to continue your good work for the state undistracted.”

Dunleavy accepted his resignation shortly thereafter.

The Department of Law and spkespersons for Dunleavy all declining comment, but the latter provided a prepared statement, including the following: ”This administration has and always will expect the highest level of professional conduct in the workplace. There is nothing more important than the protection of our state employees, and that includes feeling safe when an employee is at work. Kevin Clarkson has admitted to conduct in the workplace that did not live up to our high expectations, and this is deeply disappointing.”

Clarkson, who is married, had been on unpaid leave beginning in August, according to the ADN report. Deputy Attorney General Ed Sniffen has since taken the reins as acting attorney general for now, and while the DOL declined comment on Clarkson’s resignation, that office said Sniffen will remain in his position until a new attorney general is named.

The state of Alaska is one of several in which the attorney general is not an elected position but an appointed one. In this case, Dunleavy will eventually appoint an acting attorney general who will then be confirmed by the Legislature, if deemed appropriate. The confirmation can happen either during the regular session or a special session.

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