Interim attorney general named

Renkes, Nordstrand to work out transition in the next few days

Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2005

Scott Nordstrand will take over as interim attorney general when Gregg Renkes steps down on Friday, according to the governor's office.

Gov. Frank Murkowski was expected to formally announce his choice of Nordstrand on Wednesday. Nordstrand is a deputy attorney general with the Department of Law's civil division.

Nordstrand, 46, will fill in as acting attorney general until a permanent replacement is found, Murkowski spokeswoman Becky Hultberg said.

"Scott has been working within the department so there is going to be continuity as the department moves forward," Hultberg said.

Renkes and Nordstrand will have a couple of days together to work out the transition before Renkes' resignation takes effect, she said.

Nordstrand did not return calls to his office Wednesday afternoon.

Renkes announced his resignation last Saturday amid continuing questions about his stake in a Denver company that stood to gain from an international coal deal he helped shape as attorney general.

Nordstrand has headed the department's civil division since 2003. Before that, he was a partner in the Anchorage law firm Owens & Turner.

He has a law degree from the University of North Dakota and has been an attorney in Alaska since 1987. He is on the board of directors of the Friends of the Governor's Mansion Foundation.

Nordstrand has applied three times to be an Alaska judge. In 2004 he applied to replace U.S. District Judge James Singleton, who was retiring. Earlier that year, he was one of nine applicants for a vacant Anchorage Superior Court judgeship. He also applied to the Anchorage Superior Court bench in 2002.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Ralph Seekins of Fairbanks said Nordstrand was intelligent and capable.

"The question is going to be how will he operate as a manager," Seekins said. "He certainly has the skill sets, let's see if he can apply them."

House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz said Nordstrand's temporary appointment did not preclude the need for a solid choice to move the department ahead.

"I think if they want continuity, Scott Nordstrand is fine as acting attorney general," he said. "I'll reserve judgment until they name a permanent replacement."

Renkes decided to step down amid allegations of ethics violations even after an outside investigator concluded his stock in KFx Inc. was not enough to be considered to be an ethics breach. However, a report by former U.S. Attorney Robert Bundy found that Renkes violated the law by not seeking an ethics determination of his role in putting together a coal deal between Alaska and Taiwan.

Renkes owned more than $100,000 worth of stock in Denver-based KFx, a company with a patented coal-drying process that was mentioned in the Alaska-Taiwan agreement.

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