AD Main Menu

Fleener's jabs at Gov. Parnell are out of line

Alaskans who follow the media are disappointed and surprised by the lack of fact checking by Craig Fleener in his June 19 Compass offering in the Anchorage Daily News.

Such shenanigans are embarrassing for all Alaskans. It is also unfortunate that Executive Director Jacqueline Johnson Pata, of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), did not show leadership when she knew better, yet allowed the absurd allegations to go unchecked during the NCAI conference.

Ms. Pata's office received a formal response from the governor's scheduler in May explaining that the governor would be out of state at a family celebration marking the 60th wedding anniversary of first lady Sandy Parnell's parents.

Gov. Parnell also had a conversation with our leaders at the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) board meeting in Kodiak on May 7, where he said he would not be available on the dates of the NCAI conference.

Also this spring, the governor was invited by the Eklutna Corp. to the NCAI potlatch at a meeting with the Alaska Native Village CEO Association (ANVCA).

He similarly explained his family commitment to this group of leaders. Otherwise, the governor would have been at NCAI.

Craig Fleener and I have known each other for many years and I always felt he was a man of integrity, so his falsehoods have me taken aback.

He also described what he sees as "the failed Choose Respect campaign." That is an even more egregious falsehood because domestic violence and sexual assault affect all of us. His comment is an insult to the thousands of our residents who have stood up and walked down a street or boardwalk to take back our nights, take back our villages, and take back our culture of respect from evildoers.

His dismissive condemnation is a slap in the face of our people who, because of the Choose Respect initiative, have found the courage to stand with our governor and say, "enough is enough."

No governor in the history of the state has done more to address the dark issue of domestic violence and sexual assault than Gov. Parnell. Fleener was part of the Parnell administration when we marched in solidarity with victims and survivors. Was he not on board then? Or has he changed his tune now?

In terms of tribal relations, at this year's AFN Conference, the governor rolled out a viable framework for working with tribal courts. Currently, the Department of Law is working with the tribal nonprofit, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC), and also with the Kake and Sitka tribes on agreements. This came following a half-day discussion with AFN board members, including the president. No other governor has made this progress; it's historic in every way.

He also resolved important Kasayulie and Moore lawsuits, bringing more funding fairness for rural schools, because it was the right thing to do.

Fleener also knows that for the past two years the governor's office has participated in the AFN/NCAI-sponsored Tribal Leaders Conference, held just prior to the AFN conference. This has been a healthy and productive dialogue.

Although there will always be room for improvement, Fleener and I have had many conversations about how to better state and tribal relations, including the above examples.

I've got to ask, then: What was he doing for those years he was part of the Parnell administration? Was it just for the paycheck or was he sincere in being a team member, working with me and others on improving the relationships.

Apparently, he has forgotten those conversations now that it is political season.

John Moller serves as Senior Rural Affairs Advisor to Gov. Parnell.



By JOHN MOLLER