A man identifying himself as “the chief of staff for Rep. Ivy Sponholz,” D-Anchorage, today eliminated another former employee of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game from the pool of women who might have accused former Board of Fisheries chairman Karl Johnstone of sexual harassment.
The woman, who will not be identified here, brings to five the number of women working closely in and around Johnstone who say they were not sexually harassed. Johnstone said he only remembers working regularly around a half-dozen or so women while on the Board.
Spohnholz has refused to talk about the charges of verbal sexual harassment she leveled against Johnstone during a joint meeting of the House and Senate almost two weeks ago. The #metoo accusation has been credited with killing Johnstone’s reappointment to the Board that sets fishing regulations.
The Legislature provided Johnstone no chance to defend himself against the charge which he says is unfounded. Spohnholz has admitted that was a mistake. but has not apologized.
Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s selection of the retired Anchorage Superior Court Judge became controversial after the United Fishermen of Alaska, one of the state’s most powerful political organizations, accused Johnstone of being biased against commercial fishermen and vowed to block his confirmation to the seven-member Board.
The Tuesday phone call to craigmedred.news removing another woman from the pool of possible alleged victims traces back to legislative aide Ted Madsen in Spohnholz’s office. The caller identified himself as Ted, but his last name was not clear. When asked to spell it, the angry caller hung up the phone.
A call back to the phone number went to a recorder said to be taking messages for Madsen. The lastest Spohnholz newsletter identifies Madsen as her chief of staff.
Not the one
Madsen’s revelation of yet another woman denying sexual harassment came in the midst of a phoned threat to accuse this reporter of “harassing” the latest Fish and Game employee contacted.
In a loud voice apparently intended to sound threatening, Madsen – who twice repeated that he was Spohnholz’s “chief of staff” – threatened to take unspecified actions if the woman was contacted again before revealing that she was not involved in the Johnstone affair.
The woman serves on an Anchorage Community Council. The councils are public bodies to which the members are elected. Both the woman’s phone number and email show up on the community council’s public list of members.
In a brief phone conversation Tuesday afternoon, the woman said she did not want to talk about Johnstone. She said she didn’t want to get involved in the politics of the situation.
“I had all kinds of problems at Fish and Game,” she said. “(There are) all kinds of politics there.”
Spohnholz, she said, should be the person answering questions.
“Why don’t you ask Spohnholz?” she added.
It was explained that Spohnholz isn’t responding to phone calls or emails. Shortly after the phone call with the woman ended, she was sent an email apologizing for troubling her and asking if she could try to get Spohnholz’s office to return a phone call to the reporter.
The woman has had previous contacts with Spohnholz through her community council in a Democrat-dominated Anchorage neighborhood.
Not long after the message was sent, Madsen called on the phone number provided to the woman. The first call was not answered due to other business. A second call followed a few minutes later. It was also not answered. The third call came about five minutes after the other two and was picked up.
Madsen immediately launched into accusations of harassment. When an attempt was made to explain to him that no one was harassed by anyone, Madsen said the women had “reached out” to Spohnholz’s office as had been requested of her.
He would not say what the woman asked the office to do.
But he did remove her from the short list of women who might have been in position to complain to Spohnholz about Johnstone. Spohnholz has said there were “more than two,” but later appeared to reduce that to only two in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News.
When asked questions about what exactly the woman said, Madsen grew belligerent before hanging up. A message later left on Madsen’s voice mail asking him to call back with the spelling of his name was not returned.
Previous calls to Spohnholz’s office to ask her about the charges against Johnstone have also gone unanswered. An email also went answered. She has never provided any hint of what it was Johnstone is alleged to have said.