Two Dunleavy commission appointees are facing scrutiny by the legislature, adding to a list riddled with multiple withdrawn nominations.
Earlier this year, the governor’s appointee to the University of Alaska Board of Regents, Tammy Randolph (daughter-in-law to former State Rep. Dick Randolph, who serves as Dunleavy’s “constitutional adviser”), withdrew her name after the Alaska Democratic Party called attention to controversial-to-say-the-least social media posts Randolph made.
One post implied former First Lady Michelle Obama was a man; another registered her support for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his contentious confirmation hearings, featuring a meme of famed O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnny Cochran with the added text: “If there was no sperm you must confirm.” Randolph also used the hashtag #QAnon, aligning her with conspiracy theorists who believe that Special Investigator Robert Mueller was appointed by President Donald Trump to investigate Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and other prominent Democrats for Russian collusion and a global pedophile ring.
The same week, another hire by the administration, Art Chance, “declined to accept his offer of employment” as a policy adviser, according to Dunleavy spokesperson Matt Shuckerow. Chance, who has a high profile as an online commentor, was called out on The Alaska Landmine for racist, misogynistic comments. As an example, Landmine‘s Jeff Landfield directed attention to one which read, “I’ll leave fart-sucking to lefty idiots like you. If I thought you had a decent looking girlfriend, I’d take her away and give her the best fucking of her life. Fuck off and die.”
And in January, Jonathan Quick resigned from his brief post serving as acting Commissioner for the Department of Administration. Quick’s resumé, however, falsely claimed that he had at one time owned two businesses, Anthem Coffee & Tea and Elements Frozen Yogurt, both based out of Puyallup, Washington. After public hearings before the Senate State Affairs and Finance committees, in which Quick repeated this ownership claim, the actual owners cried foul. The Dunleavy administration informed the press on January 24 that the governor had accepted his resignation and wished “him best in his future endeavors.”
Two more government appointees were put in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration Wednesday afternoon. Dunleavy tapped Trevor Shaw to serve on the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct, and John Francis to serve on the Violent Crimes Compensation Board.
Shaw faced tough questions during the Wednesday afternoon hearing, mostly inquiries about his relationship to former Ketchikan School District teacher Doug Edwards.
Edwards was charged last year with six counts of sexual abuse of a minor for “groping a then-14-year-old girl’s chest at the school, at his home and at the church where he was a pastor,” according to KRBD in Ketchikan. It was the latest in a string of events and complaints that date back to 2013. Last month, Edwards took a plea deal consolidating the six charges into one Class B Felony, carrying a sentence of 18 years with 12 suspended. KRBD added that he “could be released after four years.”
After release, Edwards will be forced to register as a sex offender and will face ten years of probation.
Shaw was serving as the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School Board president at the time of Edwards’s arrest. Simultaneously, but not directly related to the Edwards case, Shaw faced a recall vote after a petition gained the sufficient amount of signatures required.
“The recall’s stated grounds for seeking to remove Shaw from office was an alleged violation of school board bylaws,” Leila Kheiry wrote at the time. “But there were many other concerns raised by recall sponsors. The primary complaint was a sense that Shaw was not listening to the public.”
Instead of enduring the recall vote, Shaw resigned in August, telling KRBD that “the community and school board needed one less controversy to deal with.”
“There’s been some things in the media that have circulated regarding your stepping down from the school board,” Judiciary Chair Shelley Hughes (R-Palmer) told Shaw. “I have a hashtag that I use on Facebook, “#tellingitlikeitis,” so I would like to give you an opportunity to speak regarding some of the things that have circulated.”
“There have been some comments made suggesting that during my time as school board president, I would cut off citizens that were trying to address the board. Many people as well as years of video footage would confirm that this statement is simply not accurate,” Shaw replied. He conceded that he, at times, suggested time limits for public comments and had asked people to stick to the topic at hand, but, “I never cut anyone off to keep them from speaking.”
Shaw explained that in June of last year, while the recall petition was gathering signatures, “a longtime, well respected pastor in Ketchikan, who was also the longtime high school culinary arts teacher, was arrested for sexual abuse of a minor.”
That pastor, Edwards, was his childhood pastor, and officiated his wedding. But, as he told the committee several times, allegations that he knew of Edwards’s crimes and attempted to cover them up were “outright falsehoods.” He blamed, by name, The Midnight Sun and The Alaska Landmine for promulgating accusations of his involvement.
Jeff Landfield, who pens The Landmine, was in the room and responded during public comment. “I wasn’t planning on testifying, but after Mr. Shaw referenced my website, I wanted to clarify I wasn’t contacted by any union members about his behavior or what happened,” he told the committee. “KRBD in Ketchikan widely reported what was going on. I heard about it from some people, so I started looking into it.”
“I learned of these atrocious acts in the same manner as the rest of the public, when he was arrested and the charges were announced,” Shaw told committee members. “This is a fierce betrayal to me and my family because he was indeed my former childhood pastor and did officiate my wedding. To add bitterness to that betrayal, we soon learned that his victims were close family friends of ours. However, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that I had any knowledge of his behaviors or did anything to cover them up. There’s no proof or evidence of that whatsoever, there are only rumors, innuendo, and gossip.”
“It is a big deal to me,” Sen. Lora Reinbold (R-Eagle River) said. “To me, a recall is a big deal. And you claim that you ‘departed,’ but there’s still a big red flag in regards to that whole issue there.” She cited “numerous letters of concern” from constituents and asked him if he refuted claims that he shut down public testimony. His response took about five minutes, none of which was spent answering the question. Reinbold eventually acquiesced and changed gears, asking why he thought the Commission on Judicial Conduct was a good fit for him.
“I believe my perspective is something I can bring to the commission,” Shaw said. “My entire adult life has consisted of public service and I’m very proud of the accomplishments that I had during my time on the school board.” He mentioned his tenure serving as a member of the Alaska Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee, appointed by Gov. Bill Walker (I-Alaska), from 2015 to 2018, alongside his time serving in multiple positions with the United Youth Courts of Alaska from 2012 to 2014 and the Ketchikan Youth Court from 2011 to 2014. “I think that’s a valuable perspective that I can bring, and when I’ve talked to Gov. Dunleavy about the appointment, when I talk to the administration, that’s always been the conversation. It’s important to have a long term, future-minded approach.”
“Just too many red flags here,” Reinbold concluded.
“I’ve kind of done the research on the report about the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District investigation,” Sen. Peter Micciche followed up, holding the third-party report into the Edwards case issued by the district. “Seems like you were on the board for all seven incidents. As a parent, I’m struggling on how the individual made it through report #2 without losing his job.”
“The first that we had heard of any misconduct whatsoever on the part of Mr. Edwards was at the time of his arrest,” Shaw answered. “Ultimately what it came down to was a breakdown in what administration was telling the board with regard to Mr. Edwards’s conduct and what was in his personnel file and what had happened.”
“He was going to continue to the end of the school year, which is fascinating,” Micciche said, visibly frustrated. Across the dias, Sen. Mike Shower (R-Wasilla) swiveled uncomfortably in his chair while Sen. Jesse Kiehl (D-Juneau) put his head in his hands.
If committee members thought the troubled waters had passed, they found little solace in John Francis, who Dunleavy tapped to serve on the Violent Crimes Compensation Board. The board was established to help mitigate financial losses that are the direct result of violent crimes that occur to Alaskans and visitors to Alaska. It also helps to foster victim advocacy and services and promotes victim recovery.
Francis was a Coast Guard reservist from 1979 to 1985. He spent most of the 1990s in odd jobs, as city manager for AMPCO Parking in Tacoma, Washington, and a cabinet maker for multiple companies. Since 2000, he has worked as the owner and co-founder of Computer Medics, an onsite computer repair shop based in Wasilla. He is also a co-founder and administrator for the online Facebook group “Stolen in Alaska,” which he describes as a “crime group to have an open source for people to discuss and post stolen items.” The group currently has over 25,000 members.
Francis has no formal experience with law enforcement, but does have a criminal record from the 1980s.
“Late in high school, I got involved with the wrong people. It was the worst time in my life. I got myself away from those people by moving away,” he explained. “There were two crimes. One was a burglary. A bad apple in our crowd, I helped rob his neighbor’s house. And the second crime was the insurance fraud that took place in the home I owned. They were probably within about three years of each other.”
Though he declined to include it in his resumé, Francis also dabbles in ghosts — because, why not? He runs another Facebook group called “Alaska Ghost Hunting,” which has nearly 30,000 members and, according to its own description, “Investigates haunted locations to help not only the owners understand what is there but to also help any lost souls find their way.”
“I just have several concerns,” Reinbold said, shaking her head. “Can you state if you every had any paranormal experiences? That’s a red flag.”
“I did have an experience when I was in the Coast Guard in, I believe, it was 1982, where a man died in my hands,” Francis responded. “It’s a very personal experience to have someone die on you and it changed my life forever.”
He said he and his wife started the ghost-hunting group over a decade ago with some friends. They would find places where paranormal activity had been reported and check them out. “We used scientific methods to do our research – voice recorders, stuff like that – to try to capture realistic voices. And we’ve had, actually, some decent results with that,” he described, noting that the group was featured on two episodes of “Alaska Haunting,” a rather absurd television series on Discovery’s deep cable channel “Destination America.” “But, we weren’t one of those crazy groups you see on TV,” he clarified.
Videos posted on in the Facebook group might suggest otherwise. One, entitled, “Shadow People on Camera” shows Francis in a cabin in Wasilla with “Shadows moving out from behind cameras.” In the comments section, the page administrator says, “I was never a believer in Shadow People until I experienced this for myself…. Another thing we experienced here was loud gurgling sounds like what you hear when you’re getting a cup of water from those water coolers…. Some will say that demons will make sounds like this but until I experience something demonic first hand I’ll stick with my belief that they are not real but made up by modern religion to scare people into going to their church.”
“So, do you believe in paranormal activities, and, if so, can you describe what they are?” Reinbold pressed.
“I believe there is a Jesus Christ. And I believe he did rise from the dead,” Francis responded.
“Do you believe that there is haunted locations?”
“Yes,” he said. “And I also believe that there are people that, for one reason or another, when they do die, and they see the light, and they want to go to the light but they’re in fear of being judged for something, and they stay behind. They never go towards the light.”
“This is a Violent Crimes Compensation Board,” Reinbold reiterated. “I’ve done a considerable amount of looking into things and links, and where they link to, and some your activities. And I think this is the wrong board for you and I’m going to make very clear that I’m going to be a ‘No’ vote.”
Both names now move on to a joint session of the House and Senate for final consideration. Expect fireworks. This concludes another edition of: “Alaska: You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” – unless you’re Jonathan Quick, in which case you did.
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