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AG Sullivan does the right thing about Dahlstrom hire

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: July 6, 2016
  • Published July 2, 2010

The U.S. Marine Corps reservist ignored the desires of his boss, Gov. Sean Parnell, and made a tough call in the interest of the citizenry. Then, Sullivan covered for his troops. In case you missed it, here's what happened starting way back during the last legislative session.

Parnell chatted with supporter Nancy Dahlstrom, then a state representative from Eagle River, about a job working for the governor. A deal was struck. The Parnell administration then talked with the Department of Law until it found an attorney that said this deal was OK even though Alaska law says legislators aren't supposed to go to work for the executive branch of government for at least a year after leaving office.

With that, the governor's office thought they had legal cover. Dahlstrom subsequently resigned from the legislature to take a $96,000 a year job working for Parnell as an adviser on military affairs. Anchorage talk show host Dan Fagan called the governor on the hire. The governor responded by dismissing Fagan as a know-nothing radio "entertainer.''

But by that point, Fagan already had Dahlstrom on record admitting to discussions with the governor about the job while she was still a sitting legislator. And the attorney general Sullivan on air admitting that the governor's action did appear questionable and promised a full and thorough review. There were skeptics who thought that unlikely to happen, given that Sullivan serves at the will of the governor. And it would have been easy enough for a smart attorney to write a weaselly opinion OK'ing what Parnell didn't.

Sullivan didn't do that. He came out and said a thorough analysis of the law leads to the conclusion the governor shouldn't have hired Dahlstrom. And he issued this statement:

"Although the Department of Law's earlier advice was not unreasonable, there is an appreciable risk that an Alaska court may not concur with the analysis on which that advice was based.''

Translation? One of Sullivan's people in the Department of Law screwed up, but the boss will take the blame and cover for them because it is the Marine thing to do. The smart money says somebody, or more than one somebody, is in the deep doo-doo in the Department of Law now. But Sullivan deserves a pat on the back for doing the right thing on several levels.

And so, too, Dahlstrom, who did the right and noble thing after the attorney general handed down the opinion; she quit.

The only with any real egg on their face is Parnell, who up until Sullivan's ruling was trying to making it look like the only one who did anything wrong was Fagan for pointing out what was going on. There might be a lot of reason to dislike the conservative talk show host, or any other talk show host for that matter. But that any of them think government should be run in the most transparent and above-board manner possible is not one of them.