Attorney General's role as appointee questioned

Posted: Sunday, July 01, 2007

Alaska's attorney general is one of only five in the nation appointed by a governor, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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And unlike most states, Alaska's district attorneys are not independently elected either.

That left former Republican Rep. Ray Metcalfe of Anchorage, a self-styled ethics watchdog, with few places to turn with his corruption allegations against former Senate President Ben Stevens, R-Anchorage, and others.

Last year Metcalfe brought his allegations to the attorney general's office, then headed by former oil industry attorney David Marquez.

For many years Marquez was a lawyer with companies that later became ConocoPhillips Co. He also worked as an attorney and lobbyist for VECO Corp. on North Slope natural gas tax matters before former Gov. Frank Murkowski appointed him to be his attorney general.

"I'm sure you can appreciate that the APOC complaints you filed are not evidence and therefore do not provide us with a factual basis for assessing your allegations," former Chief Assistant Attorney General Dean Guaneli wrote to Metcalfe under Marquez signature.

Many of those allegations now appear to be a part of the federal investigation into VECO's activities that have already brought three guilty pleas.

At the time, Murkowski was negotiating a natural gas contract worth tens of billions of dollars with those and other oil companies, and Metcalfe said he thinks that may have affected the actions of the attorney general's office.

Guaneli denied it, saying the decisions had been made by the office's criminal division staff alone.

Marquez did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Former Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, is among many state leaders who have opposed calls to make the state's attorney general an elected position. Berkowitz said making it an elected position would make it more partisan.

He said he would support statutory changes to separate the positions of attorney general and the governor's legal advisor.

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