When former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott abruptly resigned less than a month before the 2018 election, it was obviously big news in Alaska. But little was publicly known about what actually led to it.
In his resignation letter, Mallott wrote, “It is a resignation compelled by inappropriate comments I made that placed a person whom I respect and revere in a position of vulnerability. … I take full responsibility for this action and apologize to, and seek healing for, the person I hurt.”
Then-Gov. Bill Walker and members of his administration would say little more than that at the time, despite being pressed repeatedly. Walker described what happened as “inappropriate overtures” by Mallott to an adult woman who didn’t work in the administration. Mallot resigned within two days of the incident. At the time, Walker and others with firsthand knowledge of what happened said the woman involved didn’t want to be identified in any way, and that they were taking pains to protect her privacy.
The Daily News reported the situation at the time and attempted to dig into it, but we had a problem: The woman involved did not want to go public with her story. Others who had direct knowledge of what happened would not talk about it. That didn’t change after the election. We respected the woman’s wishes but never stopped pursuing the story. A year ago, we came close to being able to report her firsthand account as the first anniversary of the incident approached. At the last minute, the woman decided she was not yet ready to come forward. The story remained untold. Mallott died this spring.
In late August, the Daily News and ProPublica reported that Alaska’s attorney general, Kevin Clarkson, had sent hundreds of text messages, many with kiss emojis, to a younger state employee, sometimes accompanied by invitations to come to his house and other overtures. Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced Clarkson’s resignation later that morning.
That story led the woman to come forward. Once she did that, others involved decided to talk with us as well. Members of the Walker administration. Walker himself. People close to the woman. Others with knowledge of what happened. She shared text messages and a detailed account of what happened before, during and after the encounter with Mallott, and additional reporting corroborated many of the details. We’re publishing the story today.
It’s an important story to tell. Sexual harassment in all its forms remains a persistent problem in Alaska and elsewhere. By telling this story, we’re attempting to fill in important missing pieces of what happened that day two years ago.