Sens. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, left and Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, questioned Attorney General Treg Taylor about the administration’s approach to legal matters at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 23, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Sens. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, left and Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, questioned Attorney General Treg Taylor about the administration’s approach to legal matters at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 23, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Alaska lawmakers confirm attorney general, department heads

Taylor was the only Cabinet-level appointee who generated debate among lawmakers meeting to consider Dunleavy’s nominees.

By Becky Bohrer

Associated Press

JUNEAU — The Alaska Legislature on Tuesday confirmed Attorney General Treg Taylor and other members of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Cabinet.

Taylor was the only Cabinet-level appointee who generated debate among lawmakers meeting to consider Dunleavy’s nominees to lead state departments and other appointments to boards and commissions. Taylor was confirmed 35-24.

Several lawmakers said Taylor was qualified for the post. But Rep. Matt Claman, an Anchorage Democrat, said he would prefer an attorney general with experience, in particular, in criminal law.

Rep. Andy Josephson, an Anchorage Democrat, said he was concerned with Taylor’s handling of a waiver under state ethics law for former Dunleavy chief of staff Ben Stevens, who resigned earlier this year to work for ConocoPhillips. The Alaska Public Interest Research Group raised similar concerns ahead of the vote and said Taylor had not been forthcoming with lawmakers about Stevens’ request for a waiver.

Under ethics rules, public employees who leave their jobs are not allowed to provide advice or work for pay for two years on matters they were substantially involved with while working for the state. The prohibition can be waived if it’s deemed to be “not adverse” to the public interest.

Taylor, during the confirmation process, said he expected to receive waiver requests specific to certain job duties that Stevens has. He said he’s taken the approach of looking at matters on a “case-by-case basis,” rather than providing a blanket waiver.

Veri di Suvero, executive director of the Alaska Public Interest Research Group, recently said in an email that Taylor failed to tell lawmakers during confirmation hearings that Stevens had submitted a waiver request in March related to the Willow oil project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Dunleavy and Taylor signed off on the request in April, di Suvero said.

Charlotte Rand, a Department of Law spokesperson, said it was understood Stevens “would seek a waiver when a specific matter arose” and that he “eventually asked for ethics advice regarding a waiver to work on issues related to the Willow Project.”

At that point in the process, “that advice is confidential,” Rand said by email Monday.

The waiver request was reviewed by Taylor and Dunleavy and it was determined to be in the public interest since the state and ConocoPhillips “remain aligned on wanting the Willow Project to move forward,” Rand said.

“The department has to look at the specific facts and circumstances to determine whether a waiver should be granted and how broad that waiver should be. Attorney General Taylor has not acted differently than any attorney general under any other administration,” Rand said.

As for other Cabinet appointments, James “Jim” Cockrell was confirmed as Department of Public Safety commissioner, and Lucinda Mahoney was confirmed as Department of Revenue commissioner.

Mahoney was appointed commissioner in February 2020 but lawmakers did not meet last year to consider appointments.

In a statement, Dunleavy thanked lawmakers for confirming Taylor, Cockrell and Mahoney.

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