JUNEAU — Gov. Mike Dunleavy is preparing to dismiss Sitka Police Chief Jeff Ankerfelt from the Alaska Marijuana Control Board less than one month after Ankerfelt cast one of the deciding votes on a regulation that would allow marijuana shoppers to smoke cannabis inside some retail stores.
A spokesman for the governor said the vote was not a factor in the pending change to the makeup of the five-person board, but the board’s chairman disagrees.
Ankerfelt revealed his pending dismissal in an email to his fellow board members and to the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office Thursday afternoon. The email was subsequently obtained by the Daily News.
“I received a phone call today from Gina Ritacco informing me that I was no longer needed as the (law enforcement) representative on the Marijuana Control Board,” Ankerfelt wrote in the message.
Ankerfelt was out of the state when he wrote that email and not immediately available to answer questions, his Sitka Police Department assistant said by phone.
Mark Springer, chairman of the Marijuana Control Board, said by phone that he believes Ankerfelt’s dismissal was a result of his vote in favor of a new rule that would allow marijuana customers to smoke cannabis in some retail stores.
“It’s hard to imagine that the governor’s decision to remove Chief Ankerfelt as the public safety member was based on anything other than his vote to approve the on-site consumption regulations,” he said. “He’s been highly noncontroversial otherwise. He’s been measured, he’s been thoughtful, and this has been the big, controversial vote that we’ve had.”
According to state law, “a member of the board serves until a successor is appointed," and a replacement has not yet been named. Matt Shuckerow, press secretary to Dunleavy, said that as far as he knows, Ankerfelt is continuing to serve on the board.
Asked why the administration began the process early, Shuckerow said by email, “For various reasons, the Director of Boards and Commissions has chosen to reopen the search for the public safety member of the Marijuana Control Board.”
After initial publication of this story online, Shuckerow confirmed that Ankerfelt’s vote was not one of the factors considered.
“The decision to reopen the search for this position was based on various factors, however, that did not include previous policy positions,” he wrote by email.
The Sitka Police Department, under Ankerfelt, is facing whistleblower and sexual harassment lawsuits from officers, and Ankerfelt was appointed by Gov. Bill Walker after the close of the 30th Alaska Legislature. That means he has not yet received legislative confirmation.
“Mr. Ankerfelt was a midterm appointment by the previous administration that was never confirmed by the Legislature. The governor is not obligated to forward previous administration’s nominees and has the full opportunity to make his own selections,” Shuckerow said.