Parnell moves ahead with Campbell appointment

Lt. Gov. says he can appoint Campbell as a replacement without legislative role

Posted: Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell is designating Lt. Gen. Craig Campbell as a "temporary substitute" to replace himself as lieutenant governor.

The move is intended to enable Campbell to take over the number two position in the state without the legislative confirmation called for in state law, but some legislators are skeptical of its legality.

Parnell said the confirmation can be done later, in either a special session or next year during the 2010 regular session and still comply with the law.

"This is a win-win approach to ensuring a clear and secure line of succession to the office of lieutenant governor," he said Monday.

The Legislature had earlier confirmed Corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt as next in line to become lieutenant governor, approving an appointment made at Palin's request. Palin changed her mind, however, and instead named Campbell for her choice as the new lieutenant governor when she announced she'd be resigning July 26.

Legislators say state law gives them the power to confirm the appointment, however.

"I think you are going to find that the Legislature would prefer to do the confirmation," said Rep. John Coghill, a North Pole Republican and House Rules Committee chair.

"I think we should have a special session just as soon as we can muster enough people," he said.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, agreed.

"I think we should go through a confirmation session," said the House Minority leader. "It may mean some people's schedules have to change."

State law allows the lieutenant governor to designate a commissioner as a temporary substitute for some tasks, but succession to the office of lieutenant governor is not among them.

Attorney General Dan Sullivan last week released a legal opinion saying that law could be used to appoint Campbell as "temporary/acting lieutenant governor."

He said the Legislature could then confirm Campbell at a later time.

That approach "preserves the Legislature's interests and responsibilities in confirming General Campbell to the second-in-line position at a later date," Sullivan's opinion said.

Kerttula, a former assistant attorney general and former president of the Alaska Bar Association, called Sullivan's opinion "a stretch," and its legal reasoning "a little bit tortured."

Coghill said that under the method Palin and Parnell were proposing, "if, God forbid something were to happen to the governor, you would have a lieutenant governor who had never been elected or confirmed becoming governor."

And they'd be doing it on the basis of a legal opinion from an Attorney General who had never been confirmed either, he said.

Under Alaska statutes, department heads other than the lieutenant governor take office immediately upon appointment, but must be later confirmed. The state's number two position requires confirmation before taking office.

Former Attorney General Wayne Anthony Ross' confirmation was rejected by the Legislature, the first time that has happened in the state's history. Sullivan was appointed by Palin a month ago and will not face a confirmation hearing until next year.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or

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