Thursday, July 24, 2008

Anchorage Daily News Is Right; Public Safety Commissioner Charles Kopp Must Resign Or Be Fired

Update July 25th: Charles Kopp resigned, updated post HERE.

I believed that Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner Charles Kopp had partially salvaged his reputation. In this previous post, I discussed how Kopp finally acknowledged that he was reprimanded by letter by the Kenai city council after he was found to have improperly hugged the employee multiple times. He appealed the letter, subsequently reaching an agreement that if there were no recurrences, the letter would be removed from her file after two years. This did indeed happen. Kopp claimed the hugs were non-sexual, in a "friend-to-friend capacity". A complete transcript of Kopp's remarks, including a Q&A session with the media, was published on the Alaska Politics blog. I thought this was sufficient contrition on his part to warrant keeping him on.

But apparently the Alaska public and the Anchorage Daily News didn't share that viewpoint. On July 23rd, 2008, in KTUU Channel 2's unofficial survey of viewers, 65 percent said Charles Kopp cannot do his job effectively due to the controversy surrounding his appointment and should resign. And on July 24th, the Anchorage Daily News editorially told the Palin Administration that Charles Kopp needs to go, citing integrity as the primary issue, and claiming that Kopp's varying and ambiguous accounts of the 2005 sexual harassment incident have irreversibly compromised his professional integrity.

And today, it looks like the Alaska public and ADN had a better handle on Kopp than I did. In a new story posted on the Alaska Politics blog, the Anchorage Daily News reports that the Palin Administration claims that they knew nothing about Kopp's letter of reprimand, and Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow claims the Governor is "concerned". Leighow has previously said the governor knew about the 2005 sexual harassment complaint against Kopp but understood it was found to be unsubstantiated. A letter of reprimand is a sign of substantiation, even if it was eventually removed for subsequent good behavior.

Kopp, reached this afternoon, said Palin's office learned of the harassment complaint when he was named to her transition team in 2006, but that neither the case nor the letter came up during his interview two weeks ago. He said the governor knew of the complaint when he headed her Public Safety transition team after she was elected governor in 2006. He spoke to Monegan about it, although he does not recall if he told Monegan that it resulted in a letter of reprimand.

Kopp does not consider the letter of reprimand a validation of the sexual harassment charge. He considers it a "letter of instruction" for future dealings with employees. "It told me I'm guilty of hugging a friend," he said. [Ed. Note: This is ridiculous tap-dancing, and this is all we've heard from this joker for two weeks].

But in their editorial, the Anchorage Daily News effectively sums up why this does not wash. Kopp waffled about this part of his record. He lied to the public about what happened, saying in his first press conference as state commissioner, "There's no job action ever taken against me." He also misled Alaskans when he said if there had been complaints, they would be in his personnel file, while knowing full well that the reprimand was no longer in his personnel file, because the city agreed to remove it if he went two years without provoking similar complaints.

Furthermore, Kopp has also persistently trivialized the allegations against him, implying some degree of "consensuality". He says he only hugged the woman three or four times, and that she initiated at least half of the hugs.

Commentary: The Anchorage Daily News is right. Charles Kopp's constant prevaricating and rhetorical tap-dancing during the past two weeks, combined with his trivialization of sexual harassment, has indeed irreversibly compromised his professional integrity. He has lost the ability to provide ethical and moral leadership to Alaska's law enforcement community. He would recover some honor by voluntarily resigning; failing that, Governor Palin should recognize that she made this selection a bit hastily, cut her losses, and give Kopp the boot.

Besides, her other troubles will not be going away any time soon, particularly with the latest revelations posted on Andrew Halcro's blog about the Governor's husband, Todd Palin, acting as some sort of an unelected "shadow" governor. It appears that Todd Palin even received confidential e-mails meant only for those with official status within the administration.

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