New state Public Safety Commissioner Chuck Kopp never told Gov. Sarah Palin that he received a letter of reprimand stemming from a sexual harassment complaint when he was chief of the Kenai police, the governor's office said on Thursday.
The governor learned of the letter when the public did during Kopp's Tuesday press conference, Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said.
"She is concerned," Leighow said. "And, she's also disappointed."
Leighow wouldn't comment further -- including whether Palin plans to dismiss Kopp as the state's top cop.
"Gov. Palin has had lengthy conversations with Commissioner Kopp today. There's a lot of misinformation circulating about Commissioner Kopp, and the governor wants to deal in facts," she said on Thursday afternoon.
Kopp, reached Thursday afternoon, said Palin's office learned of the harassment complaint when he was named to her transition team in 2006, but that the case, or the letter, didn't come up when he was interviewed for the job two weeks ago.
He said he doesn't intend to step down. "I've had an enormous outpouring of support," he said.
Palin named Kopp head of the state Department of Public Safety on July 11 after her controversial firing of Walt Monegan.
Leighow said the governor knew about the 2005 sexual harassment complaint against Kopp when she appointed him, but understood it had been found to be unsubstantiated.
Kopp also told the Daily News last week that the allegation was not substantiated. However, Kopp acknowledged at a Tuesday press conference that the complaint from an employee, who had accused him of hugging and kissing her, had actually yielded a letter of reprimand from the City of Kenai.
The letter went into his personnel file but was removed a couple years later after no other complaints were made against him, he said. He says his record was cleared. "Legally, I was fully restored," he said.
The governor, though, would have liked to know that the letter was in the file at one time, Leighow said. The governor has not seen a copy of the letter and the city of Kenai has not released it.
Kopp said the governor knew of the complaint when he headed her Public Safety transition team after she was elected governor in 2006. He spoke to Monegan about it, he said. He does not recall if he told Monegan that it resulted in a letter of reprimand, though.
"I hate the fact that it sounds like I got hit so hard," Kopp said.
He says the letter of reprimand does not validate the sexual harassment. He considers it a "letter of instruction" for future dealings with employees.
"On the surface of it, it just sounds so awful. 'Oh my gosh, a letter of reprimand.' You know, when you look at it, the reprimand was for 'I am guilty for hugging a friend.' That's it. That's what the reprimand was for. (It) was because the hug occurred in the workplace.
"In my mind, I knew they were telling me ... 'Chuck, don't ever allow yourself to be in that position again where anything can be misconstrued, ever.' And I learned from that."
When he was asked on July 11 to become commissioner, he said he was asked a series of problem-solving questions by someone on the governor's staff and the issue of the complaint never came up.
"To beat up the governor because she didn't know I had a letter of reprimand, which, you know, is seeming so awful, to me, it is just unfair," Kopp said.
State Sen. Kim Elton said he would have expected a potential commissioner to be asked during the hiring process if there was anything embarrassing in their background.
Elton also said it was "misleading at the least" for Kopp to give Alaskans the impression he was cleared of the sexual harassment complaint. That's not the same as being removed as the women's boss and given a letter of reprimand, Elton said.
"I think we deserve a commissioner who doesn't use nuance like that," the Juneau Democrat said.
State House Majority Leader Ralph Samuels said it's going to make it tougher for Kopp to run the state troopers.
"Anybody that comes in with any taint is going to have a political problem off the bat because Monegan was so popular with the troops," the Anchorage Republican said.
Samuels said Palin hasn't forwarded Kopp's name to the Legislature for confirmation. He said he thinks legislators would want to quickly hold confirmation hearings once that happens.
"Legislators are upset about Monegan. That has really stoked some fires," he said.
Legislators are talking about hiring an investigator to look into Monegan's firing -- and if the governor tried to pressure Monegan to get rid of a trooper who is her ex-brother-in-law. Palin has said there was no pressure and that she fired Monegan because she wanted the department to go in a new direction.
The question of whether to launch an investigation is expected to come up at Monday's meeting of the legislative council, which Elton chairs.