Michael Penn | Juneau Empire file

Michael Penn | Juneau Empire file

Legislators launch secret internal investigation

The Alaska Legislature’s internal Legislative Council is opening an internal investigation, but after a six-hour closed-door meeting, lawmakers on Tuesday refused to reveal the subject of that investigation.

In a 14-0 vote, members of the council, which governs the internal workings of the Legislature, allowed the Legislative Affairs Agency’s human resources director, Skiff Lobaugh, to “view video recordings as necessary” to conduct the investigation.

The Empire believes — based upon prior reporting and the roster of legislators present at the meeting — that Lobaugh will look into a June incident in which Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, held his cellphone between the skirted legs of a legislative staffer, apparently in jest. House Rules Chairwoman Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, referenced the incident in an interview with reporters earlier this month.

Lawmakers on Tuesday implied that the Legislature’s personnel rules prohibit them from explaining who is being investigated and why.

“While I understand freedom of speech and requests from the press to understand everything that is happening, there are laws that are in place to protect individuals,” said Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Anchorage and a member of the Legislative Council.

On Wednesday, Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau and the chairman of the Legislative Council, said by phone that “at this point, I can’t say anything about any kind of investigation that may or may not be taking place.”

Asked why he can’t discuss it, he said, “There are things that are happening, and given a theoretical — if there is an investigation — and if the media is in the middle of the investigation … it could impact the objectivity of the people conducting the investigation.”

The Empire and KTVA-TV reporter Liz Raines witnessed the June incident and have written about it.

In a separate 14-0 vote, the council allowed Wilson to have “access to material made confidential by the Legislative Council records policy,” and to allow him to have a lawyer present while he accesses that material.

The Legislature’s security camera policy states: “Security camera video tapes, digital recordings, or other surveillance materials are confidential and may not be released to the public or press.”

It goes on to state that the only way security camera footage can be released is through a subpoena or other court order. Legislators themselves can only view security camera footage with the permission of the joint House-Senate Legislative Council.

Wilson wasted little time after the decision: Within minutes, he had arranged a phone call with the Capitol’s security office and was on his way to the office to view the video.

In a separate action at the end of the meeting, Kito announced that the council will create a six-member “sexual harassment and other harassment working group” that will establish procedures for reporting and dealing with harassment in the Legislature.

Kito said he hopes the working group will bring recommendations to the full council early in the 2018 Legislative session. The working group is expected to include three members from the House and three from the Senate, all coming from those previously appointed to the council. None have been named yet.

“I look forward to seeing what they’re able to come up with,” Kito said.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.

Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, and Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, preside over a meeting of the Alaska Legislature’s Legislative Council on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. (James Brooks | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, and Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, preside over a meeting of the Alaska Legislature’s Legislative Council on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. (James Brooks | Juneau Empire)

More in News

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President LaDawn Druce, left, and committee Chair Jason Tauriainen, right, participate in the first meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Four Day School Week Ad Hoc Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
4-day school week committee talks purpose of potential change, possible calendar

The change could help curb costs on things like substitutes, according to district estimates

A studded tire is attached to a very cool car in the parking lot of the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Studded tire removal deadline extended

A 15-day extension was issued via emergency order for communities above the 60 degrees latitude line

A sign for Peninsula Community Health Services stands outside their facility in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
PCHS to pursue Nikiski expansion, moves to meet other community needs

PCHS is a private, nonprofit organization that provides access to health care to anyone in the community

Jordan Chilson votes in favor of an ordinance he sponsored seeking equitable access to baby changing tables during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna OKs ordinance seeking to increase access to baby changing tables

The ordinance requires all newly constructed or renovated city-owned and operated facilities to include changing tables installed in both men’s and women’s restrooms

Joel Caldwell shows off the new Tecnam Traveller on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Aviation has since added two more Tecnam Travellers to its fleet. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Aviation adds 3rd plane to commuter service, readies for busy summer schedule

Kenai Aviation plans to increase its schedule to include 18 flights a day running seven days a week

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Kelley Cizek, right, speaks as Jason Tauriainen, Patti Truesdell and Penny Vadla listen during a special meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s school board in Soldotna on Monday.
‘They deserve better than this’

School board passes budget with broad swath of cuts, including pools, theaters and some support staff

The Alaska State Capitol on Friday, March 1, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska House passes budget with roughly $2,275 payments to residents, bill goes to Senate

The bill also includes a roughly $175 million, one-time increase in aid to school districts that would be paid according to a funding formula

The Kenai River flows near Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. The Riverfront Redevelopment project will impact much of Soldotna’s riverside areas downstream to the bridge. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna riverfront redevelopment planning moves forward

Soldotna City Council on Monday unanimously approved the creation of a project manager to shepherd the Riverfront Redevelopment Project

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Corey Cannon, who plays baseball as part of Soldotna Little League, speaks to the Soldotna City Council during their meeting in Soldotna on Wednesday.
Soldotna Little League receives donation for facility repairs

The city owns the fields, but the Little League leases the land and is responsible for the maintenance of the facilities

Most Read