Almost a week after Alaska Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, accused a retired Anchorage Superior Court judge of sexual harassment in a successful effort to sink his appointment to the state Board of Fisheries, she tried to roll back the accusation with the argument #metoo cases are too important to be ignored but too messy to be discussed in public.
Spohnholz offered no apology to 77-year-old Karl Johnstone during her speech on the floor of the state House on Wednesday, and defended her earlier accusations by saying “I stand by the actions that I made, that I took at the time, because I think I made them with the best available information I could at the time.”
She complained that she was compelled to do what she did because the state Legislature has “no mechanism” for handling complaints of sexual harassment in cases such as this. She failed to mention that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, where the women who were allegedly harassed allegedly worked, has well-established policies for handling such issues and says it offers strong protection against retribution to any employee who brings forward a sexual harassment complaint.
Why Spohnholz didn’t simply tell the unidentified women in question to a file a complaint with the agency and guarantee them she would have their backs is unclear. Spohnholz has not returned phones calls in response to messages left with her staff or answered questions sent her by email.
Johnstone was up for reappointment to a Board on which he served from 2008 to 2015. Fish and Game officials said no one ever filed a sexual harassment claim against Johnston while he was on the Board, and various women who worked for the Board when Johnstone served said they were not harassed and saw no signs of sexual harassment.
Johnstone’s appointment became highly controversial after the United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA), arguably the state’s most powerful political interest group, vowed to block his confirmation because he had in the past favored altering salmon harvests in Cook Inlet where commercial fishermen annually catch 75 percent or more of the fish.
The Inlet washes up against the Anchorage metro area now home to more than half the state’s population. Johnstone argued the time has come to begin shifting some of the commercial catch to resident-only, personal-use dipnetters in the name of food security and anglers in the name of supporting growth in a vibrant, Kenai Peninsula tourism industry and a struggling Matanuska-Susitna Valley tourism business hampered by a salmon shortage.
Commercial fishermen viewed any shift in harvest away from the commercial fishery as the simple theft of their fish.
Because of the allocation issue, Spohnholz called the Johnstone appointment “particularly contentious, probably the most contentious since statehood.”
And that was before she firebombed the confirmation process.
Last week during a floor session of the House and Senate called to confirm various appointees of Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Spohnholz announced she had been contacted by “more than two” women who complained of being sexually harassed by Johnstone. This week, the number shrank; Spohnholz told Anchorage Daily News reporter James Brooks that the complaints involved two women.
Spohnholz has not explained where the “more than” women went, and Brooks gave no indication that he asked Spohnholz what led her to reduce the number of women making complaints. The ADN story also neglected to mention that Fish and Game had no reports of sexual harassment against Johnstone while he was on the Board.
The women in question, Spohnholz said last week, work for the Board Section of Fish and Game. It is a small group with 11 employees, most of them women. The Fish Board members themselves are unpaid volunteers who set state fishery regulations. They have no control over the Board employees who work for the Section’s executive director.
What Johnstone is alleged to have said or done is unknown. Spohnholz has refused to offer any details. Wednesday she made a pitch for the Legislature to develop a policy that would allow secret committee meetings to discuss gubernatorial appointments if questions of sexual harassment arose again.
She also refused to back away from her earlier criticisms of Johnston, stating that he was “someone who in my opinion doesn’t have the character to, ah, deserve the responsibility to have the authority to make decisions over other people’s livelihoods.”
Given that Fish Board has no power whatsoever to hire or fire state employees, it has no say over the livelihoods of those working for the state. But Board decisions can affect the livelihoods of commercial fishermen across Alaska, and Johnstone’s reappointment would have put him in a position to make decisions that could affect the incomes of commercial fishermen in the Inlet, most of whom are part-time operators with other jobs.
Spohnholz did concede that in the wake of her accusations “there are some legitimate concerns about due process that have been raised…I share those concerns. I think that we need to make sure that we don’t have a system where people can be accused of anything without the opportunity to address them.”
Many questions still surround the harassment charge. Here are those that were emailed to Spohnholz today and went unanswered:
1.) Were there “more than two” women involved as you originally said on the floor, or were there only “two women” as you are now reported to say in the Daily News?
2.) Did you speak to the women directly or were their accounts relayed to you?
3.) How were these accounts vetted? Did the women provide general descriptions of what happened and when and where it happened? Did the incidents happen during the 25 to 35 days the Board meets every year or after or before those Board meetings, or did Johnstone approach the women when the Board wasn’t meeting?
4.) Did the sexual harassment take the form of physical contact or was it wholly verbal?
5.) Why did none of the women report the harassment to their supervisors in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, or do you believe agency officials are lying when they say there are no such reports?
6.) Before publicly leveling the accusations against Johnstone, did you contact Fish and Game to ask whether any complaints had ever been filed against Johnstone?
7.) Since you told the Daily News you learned of the harassment complaints a day before you announced them, did you make any effort to contact Johnstone to ask him about any of his actions before, during or after Board of Fish meetings?
8.) Since the women involved apparently did not report this sexual harassment to their supervisors at Fish and Game, do you believe there could exist within the agency a climate of fear that prevents women from reporting sexual harassment, and have you asked the governor to investigate that possibility?
The fact take Spohnholz has failed to follow through on her baseless accusations proves that she has zero interest in justice and a lot of interest in political manipulation. Her due process “concerns” are as meaningless as her baseless accusations. Any normal human would want to figure out the truth regarding her claims but she now doesn’t care if the truth actually comes out? If she represents east anchorage those people must be a sorry bunch.
On Poison Ivy’s first day in Juneau, this was the oath she took:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Alaska, and that I will faithfully discharge my duties as State Representative to the best of my ability.”
She didn’t do the basic thing she agreed to do. Poison Ivy needs to be weeded from Juneau. She’s a lowlife scumbag. Make it happen Craig!
This is the door to Hell that was opened with the Kavanaugh hearings.
Haha Jason, Democrats openned that door of lying, sleezy tactics long, long ago. While a bit off topic, just look at that long trail of sleeze with the whole phony Russian collusion thing.
But the real problem is the fecklessness of legislators in believing the lies. They did the same thing in years past with Wayne Ross and Al Barrette
This is what happens to decent, honorable people who offer their time, knowledge, experience and willingness to work in the state processes when people like Representative Spohnholz get elected.
Her actions demonstrate that she is not qualified to be a state representative and was elected only because her mother served in the legislature for many years. Name I. D. works when voters don’t take the time and effort to be informed.
How far we have fallen.
“More than two women”
Was it 2.2 or 2.7 women?
Was it a group, gang, troup, troupe, party, company, band, body, crowd, pack, herd, covey, flock, bevy, drove, hoards,, galaxy, assemblage, gathering, knot, cluster, bunch, gaggle, posse, crew……?
Or was it just a damn lie?
Keep digging, Craig. At least you can’t be fired ala Roland Maw.
Excellent list of questions. Alaskan’s deserve to have them answered. I hope folks have the perseverance to see this through to the truth. Thank you Craig.
There are no women, never have been, this much is obvious. It’s all a lie, but to the Marxist Demoncrat mind the ends justifies the means. Evil is as Evil does.
Democrat tactics – so predictable it is yawning. Let the lawsuits fly.
Many of the comments that I have read seem to put a red/blue spin on this issue. Maybe so but from where I sit it seems abundantly clear that this hit job on Karl Johnstone was engineered and implemented by members and supporters of the commercial fishing industry who feared that Johnstone being back on the Alaska Board of Fisheries would likely result in changes in the manner that salmon are allocated in the Upper Cook Inlet. That is not a red/blue thing and in my opinion trying to make it one just wastes energy that should be used to see that Johnstone is vindicated and that those responsible pay for the injustice in a most fitting way.
Kevin, you may be correct but, forgive us for assuming everybody with a “D” at the end of their name marches through life using “race, class, or gender” to achieve their goals. I mean, this has all been the “Blue” standard for the last 40 years. As Ole Rahm Emmanuel stated “never let a good crisis go to waste” or the “ends justify the means”. Cry wolf maybe?
We don’t know this to be a fact. Women could have been harassed by Johnstone. However, since rep Spineless hasn’t actually provided any concrete evidence, the whole thing smells….. fishy.
Yes please,take us back to when The peoples business was parimount.
Like when Ben Stevens ran the senate
Ivy said “there are some legitimate concerns about due process that have been raised…I share those concerns. I think that we need to make sure that we don’t have a system where people can be accused of anything without the opportunity to address them.”
It’s good to see she acknowledges what she did was completely wrong, not that that in anyways makes up for the wrong she did to this man.
When will House leadership hold her accountable, will House leadership hold her accountable or are they ok with violating due process?
Stellar Work Craig keeping her at bay. Unfortunately for sports fisherman, we lost a voice on the board. No doubt that the Honorable Johnstone got hosed. These questions will not be answered, and Rep. Spohnholz will probably not be held accountable for her actions.
Great work Craig. Pin her ears back!
Medred hits one for expecting integrity in government. It’s time things changed. The politicians showed their true colors. It’s lucky we have reporters willing to do the hard dirty work that makes democracy functional.