Perkins resigns from job

Harassment conviction prompts Department of Labor official to step down

Posted: Sunday, February 11, 2001

Dwight Perkins, a top official at the Alaska Department of Labor for most of the past six years, resigned Friday after being sentenced to community work service, probation and counseling for a misdemeanor harassment conviction.

"I do not want my current situation to become a distraction or an impediment to the important legislative efforts of the administration and the department," Perkins wrote in a letter to Labor Commissioner Ed Flanagan. "It is equally important that I devote my full energy and attention to the needs of my family and to complying with the court's judgment."

The letter of resignation made no mention of his female victim, whose breast Perkins grabbed in an incident Oct. 1.

In a written statement, Flanagan said: "We agreed that this is not the time for Dwight to be engaged in public service. Dwight needs to direct his full attention to taking care of his family and addressing his responsibilities under the court sentence to achieve a successful rehabilitation."

Flanagan stuck with Perkins after the charges first surfaced in November, taking him back when Perkins left the governor's office after just 10 days as legislative director. He said Perkins was entitled to a presumption of innocence. After Perkins pled guilty Jan. 2, in exchange for dismissal of a second charge of harassment, the commissioner said he was reconsidering Perkins' status but probably would wait for the judge's sentence.

"While I agree with Dwight that it is in the best interest of the department, his family and himself that he resign at this time, it is with profound regret that I accept his resignation effective at the close of business today," Flanagan's statement said. "Dwight Perkins has made a significant and lasting contribution during his time at the Department of Labor and the circumstances of his departure do not diminish my gratitude for his efforts.

"I know Dwight will work assiduously to confront his problems and deal with them, and I am confident that his service to his community will continue in the future."

Perkins ran afoul of an administration personnel policy that tolerates no harassment, according to Claire Richardson, spokeswoman for Gov. Tony Knowles.

"The commissioner has taken the right action," said Jim Ayers, chief of staff for Knowles. "This has been a very difficult and tragic situation for everyone involved."

On Thursday, District 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 three years' probation, counseling and up to $3,900 in restitution to the victim.

Perkins, 47, a former six-year member of the Juneau Assembly, has been married for 24 years and has a daughter in high school. His defense attorney, Thomas Nave, suggested that he suffered from a troubled childhood, including molestation and neglect by an alcoholic stepfather.

Before Perkins' resignation Friday, Lauree Hugonin said she was troubled that he appeared to be given "more latitude" than a normal offender. Hugonin is executive director of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, a nonprofit coalition headquartered in Juneau and representing 20 community-based programs statewide.

While the Knowles administration generally has been good on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, the vaunted "zero tolerance" policy was in some question while Flanagan's decision was pending in the five weeks since Perkins' guilty plea, she said.

She also was troubled by Perkins describing his problem as "boundary issues," particularly given affidavits from four other women alleging incidents in which Perkins forced a woman's hand into his crotch, cornered a woman on an elevator and rubbed a woman's inner thigh during staff meetings.

"These are really aggressive, unacceptable, controlling behaviors," Hugonin said. "I still don't see him taking responsibility for his actions."

Bill McAllister can be reached at billm@juneauempire.com.



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