State Labor Commissioner Ed Flanagan says he'll decide by noon Saturday whether to retain Dwight Perkins as his special assistant, following Perkins' sentencing Thursday on a misdemeanor harassment charge.
Flanagan said this morning that he needs to meet with Perkins, who has been on personal leave since Wednesday.
On Thursday, Juneau District Court Judge Peter Froehlich sentenced Perkins to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, suspending 60 days of the jail term and allowing Perkins to satisfy the rest through community work service. Froehlich also ordered probation, counseling and restitution to the victim, whose breast Perkins grabbed in an incident Oct. 1.
On Jan. 2, Perkins had pleaded guilty to one count of harassment, in exchange for dismissal of a second charge. He has been waiting to find out whether he will stay employed. Flanagan said it was important "to see what a judge had to say."
Perkins started work as legislative director for Gov. Tony Knowles on Nov. 6, following six years in top positions with the Department of Labor. Ten days later he was arraigned on the two harassment counts. The former Juneau Assembly member left the governor's office and returned to the Department of Labor on Nov. 21. He has appeared regularly at
legislative hearings this session.
Flanagan has said there is "zero tolerance for sexual harassment" in the Department of Labor. Knowles spokeswoman Claire Richardson reaffirmed today that the administration's policy is not to tolerate any kind of harassment.
Rep. Beth Kerttula, a Juneau Democrat, stopped just short of saying Perkins should be dismissed.
"I think with the facts of the plea that the commissioner will have a difficult time explaining why a deputy commissioner is kept in that public a position," she said.
In court Thursday, the prosecutor and Perkins' victim said he didn't appear remorseful. District Attorney Rick Svobodny, who sought 30 days of actual time behind bars for Perkins, scoffed at a letter from Perkins' counselor saying he has "boundary issues."
"It sounds like he's going canoeing in Minnesota. 'Boundary issues' are the least of Mr. Perkins' deviant behavior," he said. " 'Boundary issues' aren't putting your hand down somebody's dress and fondling their breast. ... This defendant is stuck somewhere back before the colonization of this country."
Defense attorney Thomas Nave said the district attorney "exercised himself to a degree that I have not seen done in a Class B misdemeanor in the last 24 years."
Nave stressed that Perkins, 47, has been married for 24 years and has a daughter in high school.
"I would submit to you that it's the private Mr. Perkins who's before the court today and who is here to receive justice - not some newspaper's notion of who and what he is," Nave said.
Perkins has declined several requests from the Empire to tell his side of the story.
Before sentencing, Perkins said he was "sorry for the reason I'm here in court today" and expressed regret at embarrassing friends, family and employers. But he didn't apologize to his victim, who was present.
The victim, Aleeza St. Clair, told the judge that Perkins "has shown little remorse for his actions and continues to express to his friends that, quote, 'she deserved it' or that he is being sentenced for something he didn't do."
Nave said Perkins has been punished sufficiently. "He stands a pretty fair chance of not having a job." Leaving court, Perkins said he didn't know what Flanagan's decision would be.
Bill McAllister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.