Department of Law says efforts to recall Dunleavy 'legally insufficient'
Based on a legal review from the Alaska Department of Law, the Division of Elections on Monday denied certification to the group seeking to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson’s legal opinion challenges the grounds submitted by the Recall Dunleavy campaign.
Those grounds the campaign alleges are Dunleavy:
- Violated Alaska law when he originally refused to appoint a judge to the Palmer Superior Court within 45 days of receiving nominations;
- Violated state law and the constitution and misused state funds by unlawfully and without proper disclosure, authorizing and allowing the use of state funds for partisan purposes;
- Ignored separation of power by using line-item veto to attack the judiciary and preclude the legislature from upholding its constitutional health, education and welfare responsibilities;
- Acted incompetently by mistakenly vetoing $18 million more than he told the legislature in official communication. Uncorrected, the state could lose $40 million in federal Medicaid funds.
Clarkson said in a prepared statement:
“[In] order to meet the ground for neglect of duty, which is the only legally pertinent ground here, applicants must show an inability, willful neglect, or outright illegal intent on the part of the elected official. They must also show that this inability or intent is directly related to carrying out the substantive duties of the office. Mere procedural or technical failures are not enough. The violation must be substantial in order to qualify. Moreover, applicants must show that the elected official was personally responsible. Elected officials cannot be recalled for the acts of subordinates of which they were not aware and did not specifically authorize. The recall application failed to make these showings. The grounds of incompetence and lack of fitness, as a matter of law, were not applicable here.”
Monday afternoon, the governor reacted to the announcement.
"Today’s opinion by the Attorney General appears to be well reasoned. As I have always said, the allegations by the recall group are not legitimate reasons to overturn the outcome of the statewide election held barely a year ago," Dunleavy stated in an emailed statement. "My administration will continue governing the state as we have since the election in a manner that is consistent with the fundamentals of good government. My priorities continue to be making Alaska safer for all Alaskans, growing the economy and enacting a solution to the state’s budget deficit."
Earnest recall efforts got underway Aug. 1 with statewide signature gathering beginning early that morning in Juneau outside a downtown gift shop.
The group needed to collect 28,501 valid registered voter signatures; one month later submitted more than 49,000 to the Alaska Division of Elections.
The Division of Elections, said there were “sufficient qualifying signatures and the technical requirements of the recall statutes were met.”
Dunleavy’s supporters countered the signature collection efforts saying he had only been in office eight months and he deserved time to let his priorities play out.
Once the recall supporters submitted their legal grounds and signatures to the state, the debate got quiet for several weeks.
But the recall campaign made news at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention last month when Cook Inlet Region Inc.’s President and Chief Executive Sophie Minich spoke out, saying:
“Upon facing our concerns about this governor’s administration and actions, we asked ourselves important questions: Is it appropriate to stand by quietly while this administration took actions that weakened us as a state?”
The group will challenge the decision, according to the group's campaign manager.
“Without question, the recall application submitted to the Division of Elections meets the standard under Alaska law. This rejection is without basis, and we will now turn to the courts for a remedy. We do so with confidence that we will receive fair treatment and we will prevail,” said Jahna Lindemuth, counsel to Recall Dunleavy, in a prepared statement. “Alaskans should expect a prompt resolution of this dispute. The recall will continue forward.”
Editor's note: This story originally stated the Department of Law denied the certification. It has been edited to clarify the process of the application denial.
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