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Former DPS commissioner Amanda Price, who says she had no choice but to resign, speaks out

Amanda Price resigned Friday from her post as lead of the Department of Public Safety
Amanda Price, Gov. Mike Dunleavy's pick to lead the Alaska Department of Public Safety, speaks...
Amanda Price, Gov. Mike Dunleavy's pick to lead the Alaska Department of Public Safety, speaks during a news conference in which she took questions about her nomination on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, in Juneau, Alaska. Price and the Dunleavy administration were defending her nomination ahead of a scheduled vote by lawmakers on Price's confirmation Wednesday. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)(Becky Bohrer | AP)
Published: Feb. 13, 2021 at 12:41 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The State of Alaska Department of Public Safety oversees the entirety of Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Wildlife Troopers and more, but as of Friday, it had no permanent commissioner after the official resignation of former head Amanda Price.

Price, who was appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy in 2018 and contentiously confirmed by the Legislature the following April, first made the announcement of her departure via a public Facebook post early Friday afternoon.

“My resignation was requested by Gov. Dunleavy,” Price wrote. “Actually, to be specific, the governor didn’t face me, and instead Chief of Staff Ben Stevens made the request.”

In a phone interview later Friday evening, Price said she was essentially forced from her position, left with no choice but to resign.

“The Chief of Staff (Ben Stevens) told me at that time that I had two options: either the governor would remove me today, and I would not be permitted to be with my executive staff or department in any way,” Price said, “or I could present my resignation, and I would be permitted to go back to the department and communicate with my department as a whole.”

“I asked the Chief of Staff why,” she continued, “and he indicated that the governor wanted to ‘go in a different direction’ with public safety.”

She maintained that there were two reasons Dunleavy likely wanted to push her out: one, a disagreement over her plan for the future of greater 911 access and availability across Alaska, which she said she supported but Dunleavy did not; and two, what Price first referred to in her post as a recent “personnel decision,” which she later said regarded last week’s sudden purported demotion of the then-director of the Div. of Alaska Wildlife Troopers. At the time, Col. Doug Massie was in that role after being named to it by Dunleavy in 2018. A spokeswoman for Alaska State Troopers said via email on Feb. 5 that Massie had “separated” from his post, but did not elaborate on why.

Massie remains within DPS, the email said, and has returned to his previous position as a sergeant in the Mat-Su.

“This concept of politics governing public safety,” Price said, “collectively, we have had a problem with that historically. But it’s really unacceptable and very concerning.

“I could be wrong,” she added, “but it seems like there’s not any other explanation for what the governor is doing, other than letting politics govern how our state is providing public safety services.”

Alaska’s News Source asked the governor’s office repeatedly for comment on Price’s resignation, the “separation” within Alaska Wildlife Troopers, and several related state policies. Earlier Friday evening, Dunleavy spokesman Jeff Turner declined comment, saying that “the governor’s office has a policy of not commenting on personnel issues.” He responded to a follow-up request – including seeking specific comment on the process of resignation requests in general and documentation of policies regarding “not commenting on personnel issues,” as well as the lead-up to Price’s resignation – by saying all the questions “do fall under the umbrella of personnel issues,” and refusing to answer.

Turner then replied to a selected inquiry within the same request about discrepancies between Price and Dunleavy regarding the future of 911 availability across the state by citing a recent report made public at the end of 2020. He said the governor had “appointed a working group made up of public safety officials, telecommunications industry representatives and local elected officials to study the issue of consolidating 911 dispatch,” and pointed to the report, which specifically recommended against any consolidation of 911 dispatch centers and said there was no evidence it would improve rural 911 services.

Meanwhile, Price’s vacancy was quickly listed online – even faster than the request for a meeting regarding her resignation, which Price said was made on Thursday – and her exit itself – executed in a meeting Friday morning.

“I’m very worried,” Price said Friday. “I’m an advocate for public safety, and it’s very distressing. To even think that it could be true, and maybe it’s not, but to even think that politics wins out over the lives of Alaskans is unacceptable and incredibly distressing.”

She closed her Facebook post Friday morning with a scathing review of the governor’s actions as a gubernatorial candidate versus those as an elected official.

“‘People before politics,’ candidate Dunleavy said,” Price wrote. “‘Fix government,’ he said. ‘No status quo,’ he said [...] as leaders, we make changes that are right, regardless of politics. Candidate Dunleavy and his philosophies are not how Gov. Dunleavy governs.”

Price’s resignation comes just two weeks after another top-ranking official within the Dunleavy Administration also stepped down. Acting Alaska Attorney General Ed Sniffen resigned on Jan. 29 as the Anchorage Daily News was preparing an article about allegations of sexual misconduct, reportedly involving a minor and from several decades ago, that were made against him. Dunleavy has since called for an investigation into Sniffen’s alleged behavior.

Sniffen had replaced disgraced fmr. Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, who resigned in August of 2020 after a different investigation by the Anchorage Daily News brought forth accusations and records of Clarkson’s inappropriate behavior in the workplace, including advances toward a subordinate employee of the state.

A press release directly from the Office of the Governor on Friday afternoon had said Dunleavy accepted the resignation of Price as DPS commissioner, adding that “[t]he Governor wishes to thank Price for moving the department forward during her tenure.”

Dunleavy also said in his brief press statement that he appointed former DPS employee Kelly Howell to temporarily serve “on special assignment” as head of the department, until a new commissioner is appointed “in the near future.”

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