Two Dunleavy appointees out as Senate Democrats ask for more stringent vetting

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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) — The Dunleavy Administration has seen a shake-up as the Dept. of Administration Commissioner-designee resigned and another hired as a policy advisor in the same department was forced to bow out of that role before he started within hours of each other Thursday.

“You see that that committee process has worked, in that there has been some additional information that has changed some of the appointments,” said Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage.

Confirmation hearings for commissioners are typically done later in the session, but Giessel says doing them at the beginning of session has advantages as it “allows for a more thorough scrutiny” as lawmakers and staff aren’t focused on the budget.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, says the governor’s staff had done him a “disservice” by not thoroughly vetting candidates, and he called on the administration to take more time looking at appointees “to make sure they have the best ones for the job.”

Commissioner-designee Jonathan Quick resigned from office late Thursday after he claimed to have been the owner of a small business in Washington State in testimony to the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. The business owners then refuted that claim, after which Quick sent a letter saying he had given some “incorrect information” to Senate Finance, and just hours later resigned.

“Though I strongly refute some of the claims made against me over the last 48-hours, I do not want to become a distraction to your agenda and the positive work you are doing on behalf of Alaskans,” read Quick’s resignation letter to the governor.

The headaches for the Dunleavy administration weren’t over.

Art Chance, who accepted a role as a policy advisor in the Dept. of Administration, declined his offer for employment Thursday evening, according to the governor’s office.

Over several years,Chance left a trail of vitriolic social media posts and repeatedly threatened sexual violence against those with whom he disagreed. Many of those posts began resurfacing earlier in the week, and condemnation from both sides of the aisle quickly followed.

“He has routinely threatened people with physical violence, and more than once threatened to sexually assault the loved ones of his critics,” read a statement from Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage. “This is not acceptable behavior for anyone, especially from a senior policy advisor in an Administration which has pledged to reduce sexual assaults in Alaska.”

Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, said in a Friday afternoon press conference that Chance’s comments “are totally inappropriate” and that there was zero tolerance for that behavior when he worked in the private sector.

Begich questioned how rigorously the Dunleavy administration was vetting candidates for positions that do not require confirmation before the Legislature.

The governor’s office has not replied to requests for comment about how the vetting process works for appointees or how Chance’s social media posts were not discovered.