One thing nearly all politicians share in common is this: They’re all about transparency until it’s time to be transparent.
Here was Alaska Gov. Bill Walker four years ago in his swearing-in remarks:
Now Walker running mate Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, the Democrat candidate for governor four years ago who abandoned his party to join Walker on an independent ticket in order to oust incumbent Republican governor Sean Parnell, has resigned his office and severed his relationship with the incumbent governor.
Walker isn’t saying much. Mallott has left the stage. And Walker deputy chief of staff Grace Jang, a former journalist, is pleading with her former colleagues to ignore their responsibilities to tell the truth about public officials and walk away from this story.
What is known
The incident appears to center on inappropriate sexual overtures and inappropriate sexual comments, but no one in the governor’s office has explicitly said this. The entire incident has transpired behind something of a veil.
Mallott’s letter of resignation didn’t even say if there was a woman involved. Instead it referred to a placing “a person whom I respect and revere in a position of vulnerability.”
The vulnerability phrase would appear to indicate Mallot suggested that if the “person” didn’t cooperate, there would be consequences. There is no hint of what those might be, although Walker administration officials have said no state employees were involved so apparently the loss of a job or the loss of an opportunity for a job can be scratched from the list.
The mainstream media has reported little more on this story than the official statements coming out of Walker’s office, but there is plenty of talk in political circles and among old Mallott friends about what happened. The name of a Fairbanks woman involved in law enforcement has come up repeatedly.
For two days now, craigmedred.news has tried to reach her. She has been repeatedly queried about any possible involvement. She has not responded.
State of sexual abuse
As of this moment, the decision is to leave her name out of the story because in her capacity as a member of the state’s Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault she is a more a quasi-public official than a real public official although she holds an elevated position as a public figure in the Alaska Native community.
She has visibly spoken out against the problems of domestic violence and sexual assault in this state, especially in rural Alaska. She has, in particular, urged communities to stand up to protect minors who might become victims.
And this is where the issue of identification gets sticky.
Suzanne Downing at Must Read Alaska has reported the 75-year-old Mallott’s inappropriate comments, whatever they might have been, were directed at a 17-year-old. And it would appear the woman who brought Mallott down is the teenager’s mother.
Suffice to say, the mom in this case – if it is the woman involved in law enforcement in Fairbanks – is no wallflower. She has a reputation. Some who know her think that if Mallott had said something untoward to her she might have kneed him in the groin.
But nobody knows for sure what happened here and she has not come forward to tell her story.
That said, the governor’s failure to provide details on an incident that he claims so significant he called his Cabinet in to ask advise has only heightened interest in the pre-election blowup.
Jang, in her Facebook post, whines about how it has been “a tough week for my boss and our whole team.” The post is the definition of “self-serving,” but Jang does raise one good point:
“As journalists, you have a choice. You can choose to elevate the discussion.”
If, in fact, this is another case of an old man with power trying to use that power to exploit a teenage girl in Alaska – as Downing has reported – it is indeed time to elevate the discussion, because that sort of thing has been going on in Alaska for too long.
Two words come immediatley to mind: “Bill Allen,” once one of the most powerful men in the state capital, and a man who should have been prosecuted but wasn’t for using his power, influence and money to entice teenage girls into sex.
There are no indications that Mallott misused his power and money in anyway as badly as Allen, but old pals of the ex-lt. governor asked about what might have happened have expressed no surprise at the idea of inappropriate comments or the involvement of young women.
They have only expressed surprise that Mallott – the former president of the Sealaska Native Corporation, the former mayor of Juneau, a longtime state business and political figure, and an intelligent and accomplished Native leader – would be so careless as to make such comments in this time of #metoo.
And that is a story worth pursuing because, if true, clearly #metoo isn’t working and the heat needs to be turned up higher. That an elected public official would say something so grievous as to force his resignation so soon in the wake of the accusations of sexual misbehavior swirling around Supreme Court Justice Brent Kavanaugh – a man whose reputation will forever be tarnished – is simply mind boggling.
Alaskans deserve an explanation of what happened not just because Mallott was the lieutenant governor, either. But because Mallott is in too many ways representative – to be blunt – of other horny, old farts in powerful positions in this state.
Less than a year ago, Dani Bickford, a one-time legislative staffer in the capital city of Juneau where Mallott was mayor, very publicly raised this issue. She started sketching penises adorned with the faces of lawmakers who had sexually harassed her. She described the Capitol itself, a place where Mallott had an office, as something of a modern-day, near-Arctic den of iniquity where it is normal for powerful men to harass powerless women.
Apparently her art and her statements, and #metoo and Kavanaugh’s nightmare failed to reach Mallott. That’s almost impossible to believe, but is there any other explanation?
The untold story told
With the mainstream media so far responding to Jang’s plea for silence and reporting little, others have rushed in to fill the news vacuum.
Downing at her right-leaning website was Thursday reporting this all began with an altercation between “Mallott and an unnamed middle-aged woman at the (AFN) Elders and Youth Conference. It was at least a little bit public. The situation became known, and that information made its way back to the governor’s chief of staff.
“The young girl’s mother evidently had a close relationship with Mallott….Must Read Alaska has learned that Mallott said something to the daughter — and the mother went ballistic.
“On Tuesday, Mallott was no longer welcome at the Alaska Federation of Natives. He is one of the founders of the organization. Mallott left AFN and went back to Juneau immediately.”
The information was not attributed, but Downing was the first to break the news of Mallott’s sudden departure from office on Tuesday. Some at first questioned that report, but it turned out to be accurate.
The account she details above is largely similar to the story many journalists have likely heard by now because it’s the story burning up the wires of the Bush Telegraph, the state’s underground whisper network.
The likelihood is that some version of this story is true, and Walker needs to tell the truth about what happened to clear the air.
Jang’s claim this will somehow further traumatize the victim is nonsense. The victim deserves a thank you and a public confirmation that “you did the right thing, and we applaud you for it.”
Not just for her, but for all those teenage girls who might face the next old fart trying to solicit them and need to hear the message that its OK to tell powerful old men to leave you alone because Alaskans will have your back.
Will Walker do this?
Funny, four years ago it was what he insisted Parnell should do.
Parnell then, like Walker now, faced questions about his handling of a sex scandal involving the Alaska National Guard (ANG). Walker criticized Parnell for a lack of a transparency in that case.
Walker friend Alice Rogoff, the publisher of the state’s largest newspaper at the time, even sued the Parnell administration to obtain public records pertinent to the state’s investigation of the ANG to try to force the issue into public view.
Just after the election, the Dispatch News (which went bankrupt and no longer exists) quoted Walker saying “my practice is to err on the side of transparency without violating anybody’s rights in the process.”
“Candidate Bill Walker called for greater transparency in government generally,” ADN lawyer John McKay added at the time, “and he specifically said the governor’s office should be releasing more information about the National Guard scandal and how it was handled.”
When Walker was sworn in as the new governor, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported he thanked Parnell “for his service to the state but went on to say that he plans to have a more transparent administration.
“‘My administration will work to restore some of the faith and trust that has been lost,’ he said.
“While not referenced directly,” the News-Miner story said, “it was likely a reference to Parnell’s obstinacy when it came to discussing his administration’s handling of allegations of sexual abuse and other misconduct within the Alaska National Guard. Those allegations, including a slow response to records requests that led to a release of hundreds of emails just a few weeks before the election, dogged Parnell throughout the campaign.”
Walker isn’t just suggesting a slow response; his deputy chief of staff is promising no response because, in her words:
“It’s been a tough week for Byron and his family, too. His wife, children and grandchildren are members of this community. They work with us, they go to school with us, they serve with us. One family member told me he has stayed off Facebook because of the hateful comments, the hurtful innuendos, the outright lies.”
There is one quick way to end hurtful innuendos and outright lies:
Put the truth out there. Tell your boss to do what he promised to do when he was elected. Be honest with Alaskans.