After the Public Safety Commissioner, on behalf of the governor, asked the state’s top anti-rape leader to resign, a member of the governor’s inner circle applied for the job.
Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan met with the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault’s Executive Director Lauree Morton on Nov. 18 and asked her to resign. Morton turned in her resignation letter on Dec. 7. One week later, the governor’s senior advisor for crime policy and prevention Amanda Price turned in an application for the job, according to council vice chair Rachael Gernat.
“It did appear to be untimely,” Gernat said. “In general I think it would be odd to apply for a job that hasn’t been posted, but then again, I guess if you really wanted the job, you’d want someone to know you were interested.”
The job opening for CDVSA Executive Director has not been publicly posted yet and Gernat said she hasn’t looked at Price’s application. Gernat sits on the subcommittee that’s working on recruitment material, which the council plans to finalize around the second week of January.
The governor appointed Price as a special advisor for crime policy and prevention in March 2015. Prior to that, she served in the executive director positions of Standing Together Against Rape and the Alaska chapter of the American Heart Association. Price could not be reached for comment.
Like council chair Patricia Owen, Gernat was another council member who was unaware of Monegan’s intention to ask Morton to resign and the different direction the governor hopes CDVSA to move to.
“Oh, I was surprised. I feel like Lauree was a phenomenal executive director,” Gernat said on the phone Thursday. “Had Ms. Morton not resigned, that would’ve been something that went to a vote by the board.”
By statute, the council hires the executive director. The council is made up of nine governor-appointed members — four public members, four commissioners or their designees, and the attorney general or designee. The council’s bylaws state that the executive director hire is approved by the Office of the Governor.
Gernat said that she had a meeting with the governor in early December, prior to Morton’s resignation, to learn about the different direction. In her understanding, the governor wants CDVSA to collaborate with more entities and to expose the level of violent crime and sexual assault at a higher level.
“They just wanted a different amount of energy and different types of creative thinking to address those visions and he didn’t think Lauree would be the person to do that, that they just needed a change at the top,” Gernat said.
Gernat said she wished Morton could’ve been given a chance to move CDVSA in the direction the governor wanted before being asked to resign.
“He said he felt that Lauree couldn’t and we had a difference of opinion, so here we are,” she said.
Gernat said the executive director position of CDVSA should not be linked to political motivation because it directly affects the wellbeing of Alaska citizens.
“I’m hoping that we hire an executive director and we make a smooth transition and we go in the governor’s new direction and there’s little hiccup to the victims and their children that we serve. That’s my hope. My fear is that if it becomes a political position, those transitions would cause breaks in services to victims. There doesn’t need to be any more pressure or stress of survivors because of politics.”
The council, during a special meeting Wednesday, approved the hire of former CDVSA director Jayne Andreen as an interim executive director. For recruiting a permanent hire, they discussed the location of the position, which has long been Juneau. The CDVSA office and its staff are located in Juneau.
“I think that would limit our ability to recruit. Why do you want to do that? We’ll address that with the various applicants. We’re trying to cast as big a net as we possibly can to try to capture the most qualified folks,” Monegan said during the meeting.
Public member Michelle DeWitt strongly felt the position should be located in Juneau
“This executive director of the council, now more than ever, is doing grant reporting, grant writing, is really in the trenches because of some of the cuts that have been made, and I think working as a team in a Juneau located office if extremely important,” she said.
Gernat, on Thursday, said the council was split on the matter.
“I think what you’re hearing is state members staying it doesn’t matter where they live, and all the public members and all the (Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault) and the people who actually do this work are saying it absolutely does. If you want to tie that into whether or not this is political, I’ll leave that up to you.”
Gernat said, besides Price’s resume, the council has not received any other applications for the permanent executive director position. She said the council will finalize recruitment material in early January and decide when to post it.
• Contact reporter Lisa Phu at 523-2246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.