Crime & Courts

Alaska legislative staffer accused of hit-and-run, DUI: 'It's personal'

The Alaska Senate press secretary accused of hitting two people with her car earlier this week while driving under the influence and then fleeing said Friday the incident was not connected with the Legislature.

"It's personal," said Carolyn Kuckertz, formerly the chief spokeswoman for the Alaska Senate Majority, sitting in the visitor's room at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River in yellow jail uniform. "I want to reiterate that absolutely no part of this was done in the Legislative Information Office or with the knowledge of, or near or around, any legislators."

"If others do it," she said, referring to alcohol consumption at the LIO building, "it is without my knowledge. And I certainly haven't seen it. This is not where this originated."

While Kuckertz was willing to say in the interview who was not present with her when she was drinking, and willing to say where the drinking did not occur, she declined to say whether anyone was with her or where she was in the time leading up to the accident and her arrest.

Kuckertz faces felony hit-and-run charges after police said she hit two women while backing out her sedan in the Legislative Information Office parking lot about 5:30 p.m., then drove away. Police said they found her inside a day care facility near the intersection of Minnesota Drive and Benson Boulevard, where she was picking up her child.

Facing three felonies and a misdemeanor, Kuckertz declined Friday to discuss any details surrounding the case. But she said she was "out and about" that Tuesday afternoon because most legislators and staff had left the building for the day. It was another day of impasse at the Legislature, where Kuckertz's Republican caucus has been unable to come to terms with the House over a budget.

"Everyone was mad, everyone needed a cool-down period. Pretty much everyone left the building. I proceeded to do the same thing," Kuckertz said. "Everyone went to work the next day (Wednesday). I failed to show up."

Kuckertz said she hadn't talked to her bosses -- principally Senate President Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage -- and didn't know the status of her job. She said she had heard she was on unpaid administrative leave. She said she's been working 12- to 18-hour days since January.

She acknowledged going to the day care center to pick up her daughter, but said her daughter was never in any danger. She said she was meeting her brother at the day care facility.

"I'm not what people think," Kuckertz said.

Kuckertz said she posted $3,000 bail at a court hearing Friday morning and would be freed from jail on an ankle monitor once authorities complete their paperwork.

A former deputy of hers, Daniel McDonald, said Friday that Meyer's office had decided to terminate her contract, and that he was now "temporary press secretary" for the Senate majority. McDonald said Meyer would discuss the Kuckertz situation with other leaders of the caucus, but added that the ultimate decision about whether to keep Kuckertz was Meyer's.

Meyer himself declined to answer questions Friday, describing the matter as a "personnel issue."

"I don't want to comment on that -- she's on unpaid administrative leave," Meyer said.

Alaska Dispatch News reporter Alex DeMarban contributed to this story.

Devin Kelly

Devin Kelly was an ADN staff reporter.