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Parnell rebukes Treadwell on administration role

Lieutenant Governor told not to meddle in other agencies

Posted: August 6, 2011 - 8:33pm
Gov. Sean Parnell and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell march together in this summer's Juneau Fourth of July parade.    Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Gov. Sean Parnell and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell march together in this summer's Juneau Fourth of July parade.

Gov. Sean Parnell is trying to rein in his energetic lieutenant governor, Mead Treadwell, who won a hotly contested race for the position with Parnell’s backing.

The Alaska office of lieutenant governor is one of only two statewide offices, and succeeds to the governorship if the position becomes vacant, but has few other duties.

In addition to overseeing the state’s Division of Elections, the lieutenant governor’s official duties are mostly symbolic and administrative, as well as special duties assigned by the governor.

Parnell, however, has complained in the past to Treadwell about his interfering with activities of other departments and going around commissioners to instruct lower level staff.

In a letter to Treadwell in July, Parnell told Treadwell that had to stop.

Parnell told Treadwell that he was not to use either “my name or the office entrusted to me” to tell people working for agencies, commissions or boards what to do.

Neither Parnell, Treadwell nor their top staff were available for comment Friday about their relationship, but Michelle Toohey, Treadwell’s deputy chief of staff issued a statement listing the lieutenant governor’s statutory and delegated duties.

“Both the governor and lieutenant governor are committed to work in the best interest of Alaska,” Toohey’s statement said.

As lieutenant governor before he became governor, Parnell was mostly in the background, assisting then-Gov. Sarah Palin with her legislative and political agenda.

After Parnell became governor following Palin’s resignation, Craig Campbell was selected to be the new lieutenant governor. He initially filed to run for a full term, but then withdrew.

That left the leading candidate in the race Parnell rival Jay Ramras, a Fairbanks businessman and state representative who had been an outspoken critic of Palin, Parnell and much of their legislative agenda, including seeking an independent natural gas export pipeline.

Also in the race was Eddie Burke, a volatile right-wing former Anchorage talk radio host.

Treadwell, a businessman and chair of the U.S. Arctic Commission, entered the race almost as Parnell’s all-but-official running mate and easily won a three-way primary with more than half the vote. The two won easily in the fall general election.

That relationship now appears frayed, with Parnell telling Treadwell that his attempts at directing agency work were creating “concern and confusion” in the administration.

It is not clear whether there are specific policy disagreements between Parnell and Treadwell. It has appeared that Treadwell has strongly supported Parnell’s aggressive stance in favor of oil drilling and in opposition to federal environmental regulations that might hamper the oil industry.

Treadwell recently attended an Arctic energy conference on Alaska’s behalf, promoting the state to national leaders as “America’s Energy Solution.”

He also endorsed his call for more oil in the trans-Alaska pipeline and providing incentives to oil companies.

Arctic issues, however, may play a role in Parnell’s unhappiness with Treadwell.

Parnell told Treadwell that he was delegating to him responsibility for being the state’s liaison to the Arctic Council and the Arctic Research Commission.

But that delegation of authority Parnell said “is not meant as a broad delegation of authority in every Arctic policy area.”

Parnell told Treadwell he was to work with other departments in state government only through their commissioners or designees.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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