Press Release

Sullivan Makes Recommendation on Procedures for Upcoming Government Transition

July 10, 2009

Anchorage, Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan today released a Department of Law opinion that provides recommendations for ensuring a seamless government transition that safeguard against the possibility of a "succession gap" that would leave the office of Lieutenant Governor vacant.

"I believe that the approach outlined in the opinion reinforces the critical public interest of continuity in the principal executive offices of the state," said Sullivan. "It also preserves the legislature's interests and responsibilities in confirming General Craig Campbell as successor to the lieutenant governor, at a later date."

The opinion recommends that, pursuant to Alaska Statute 44.19.026, Campbell could become temporary lieutenant governor in an acting capacity when Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell succeeds Governor Sarah Palin. This would preserve the legislature's authority to confirm Campbell's appointment as successor to the lieutenant governor.

Sullivan said the issues addressed in this opinion are important for the State of Alaska, requiring consideration of executive and legislative responsibilities, including the powers of appointment and confirmation, and the implementation of constitutional and statutory procedures intended to ensure that there is no gap in the line of succession for the office of the Governor.

The opinion concludes that in rare cases it is conceivable that the critical public interest of ensuring continuity and a clear line of succession in the office of the Governor might not be aligned with the legislature's important responsibilities and powers to confirm senior executive branch officials. This issue is examined at length in the opinion. Although describing "a close call," the opinion states that a recess appointee as successor to the lieutenant governor can assume the office of lieutenant governor when it becomes vacant without first being confirmed by the legislature.

Despite this conclusion, the opinion distinguishes between what the executive branch has the legal authority to do, and what the attorney general recommends it should do.

"These are not always the same," said Sullivan. "In this case, we believe it is important to recommend approaches that will have the broadest opportunity for acceptance among different branches of government with regard to succession issues."

The situation arises because of Governor Palin's announcement on July 3 that she would resign her office on July 26, citing among the factors for her decision a barrage of ethics complaints that to date have been resolved with no finding of wrongdoing. Two more ethics complaints have been filed this week, including one today.

In her resignation announcement, Palin indicated that Campbell, currently the commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, would become lieutenant governor when Parnell succeeded her as governor. Previously, the governor had designated and the Legislature had confirmed Corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt as next in line for lieutenant governor. But Schmidt recently resigned from that designation.

Governor Palin assured Alaskans that proper procedures are being followed that will prevent any loss of continuity in office.

"The Department of Law is doing a thorough job of overseeing the transition process so that it's seamless and that we stay true to Alaska's constitution and statutes," the governor said.

For more information, contact Joanne Grace, assistant attorney general, at 269-5237.

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