Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR
Recently, Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson resigned, due to accusations of a possible inappropriate relationship with another state employee. Political scandals are nothing new, but as each one unfolds, there is often something to learn from how the people involved communicating throughout the process.
In this case, Clarkson’s image was that of a socially conservative “Law & Order” guy, and someone Alaskans could trust to make good moral choices as well as to enforce the law. According to top political officials in Alaska, that image was tarnished by allegations that Clarkson sent some “inappropriate” text messages to another state employee.
Speaking about the issue, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy said, “Kevin Clarkson has admitted to conduct in the workplace that did not live up to our high expectations, and this is deeply disappointing… This morning he took responsibility for the unintentional consequences of his actions…”
When asked about the incident, the female staffer in question said she “felt uncomfortable” with the messages Clarkson sent, later reporting them to her supervisor.
Meanwhile, Clarkson has apologized for his “lapse of judgment,” adding that the texts he sent were not meant to be racy or inappropriate. “These texts included an invitation for this person and her children to come to my home to share a meal, which she declined… All these texts were G rated, nothing remotely salacious…” Clarkson added that he felt they had a “friendly” relationship, saying, “On several occasions, this person initiated a friendly hug when I came to her workplace, and I reflexively gave her a peck of a kiss on top of her head…”
Local media obtained records of these texts, finding that Clarkson sent the employee about 550 texts per month. They included conversations about entertainment, family photos, book recommendations, movies, and Clarkson’s ongoing attempts to get a visa for his wife’s son, who lives in Colombia.
Eventually, the employee said she was “uncomfortable” with the communication, and Clarkson says he stopped texting her. He adds that, though he has resigned, he believes this situation is happening due to politics, arguing that the situation had ended until a political opponent contacted the governor’s office, prompting the employee to then report the communication to her supervisor.
Clarkson says, “I cooperated in the ensuing process, and have accepted the finding by Human Resources that my actions, however unintentionally, created an uncomfortable workplace environment for this employee…”
At least one of those ‘political opponents’ of Clarkson’s, the executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party Lindsay Kavanaugh, described the texts not as innocent and “G rated,” but as sexual harassment, adding: “(Harassment) must not be tolerated anywhere. When an attorney fails to understand the difference between right and wrong, he has no business in the legal profession, never mind as the top attorney in the state…”