ANCHORAGE (AP) — Alaska’s incoming attorney general vows his first order of business will be reviewing both the status of the lawsuit that overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and a National Guard scandal that rocked the previous administration.
Gov.-elect Bill Walker on Tuesday announced four appointments to the top ranks of state government, including Craig Richards as the state’s attorney general. Walker takes office on Monday after defeating Gov. Sean Parnell in the November election.
A U.S. District Court judge overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage in October, and the Parnell administration has spent more than $100,000 on unsuccessful appeals.
On the campaign trail, Walker said Parnell’s decision to fight the lawsuit, officially known as Hamby v. Parnell, was an unwise use of public money. However, after he won the election, he said he would evaluate the case.
“I am honored by this appointment and will begin reviewing Hamby v. Parnell as well as the National Guard investigation as soon as that information is made available to my office,” Richards said in a statement. His appointment must be approved by lawmakers.
A federal report found widespread problems in the Alaska National Guard, including sexual abuse and fraud, and suggested a series of steps to correct problems. Parnell sought and received the resignation of his adjutant general the day the report was released.
Parnell has said he had narrowed candidates for a new adjutant general, but would let Walker choose his own head of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
Richards said he also looked “forward to utilizing my experience in finance, natural resource development and taxation to support Gov. Walker as the state gets to work on these and many other important issues.”
Richards, a Fairbanks native who has a private practice, replaces Michael Geraghty as attorney general.
“I have worked alongside Craig Richards for more than a decade. I trust his judgment and admire his ability to quickly and thoroughly analyze complex legal issues. He will be a strong addition to my administration,” Walker said.
In a statement, Walker also announced he was retaining Gary Folger as the commissioner for the Department of Public Safety.
Walker said former University of Alaska Fairbanks vice chancellor Pat Pitney will be his budget director. She replaces Karen Rehfeld, who retired last Friday after 35 years with the state.
“I am thrilled that Pat will be joining the team,” Walker said. “After Karen Rehfeld announced her retirement, we knew finding a replacement would be critical. We thank Karen for her years of dedicated service.”
Pitney also previously served as vice president of finance of the University of the Arctic, which Walker’s office said was a network of universities and organizations from the eight Arctic nations.
He said Guy Bell will be retained as director of administrative services for the governor’s office.