By Tim Bradner
State Public Safety Commissioner Amada Price resigned Friday at the request of Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The governor’s office did not state a reason for the change but Price said the governor was unhappy with her demotion of Doug Massie, who heads the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, a part of the State Trooper organization under Price.
Massie had worked in the wildlife troopers unit before Dunleavy promoted him to head the group. Price demoted Massie for administrative reasons, she told the Anchorage Daily News.
The governor was also unhappy with a plan by Price to consolidate 911 call centers for trooper dispatches. A new call center would be built in Palmer to replace centers now in Wasilla, Kenai and Ketchikan.
It’s not unusual for governors to do cabinet-level shakeups mid-way in their terms particularly when it is connected with policy differences or disagreements on personnel matters, as this was.
Dunleavy’s cabinet has been stable in his first two years except for the resignations of Attorney General Kevin Clarkson over a sexual harassment issue that was followed by a resignation of Clarkson’s proposed replacement, state attorney Ed Sniffen, over an inappropriate relationship several years ago.
There have been shake-ups in the governor’s office, however. After a turbulent first year for the governor Tuckerman Babcock, Dunleavy’s first Chief of Staff, was replaced by Ben Stevens. Donna Arduin, Dunleavy’s first budget director, was replaced by Neil Steininger.
On Thursday morning, Price posted the following to her Facebook page:
As of 1000am this morning, Friday February 12, I am no longer the Commissioner for the Department of Public Safety. My resignation was requested by Governor Dunleavy — actually to be specific, the governor didn’t face me and instead chief of staff, Ben Stevens made the request.
After more than two years of consistent, measurable success running the DPS, and after only having had conversations with the GOA highlighting my success in the role, the COS said today when requesting my resignation that the GOA is “taking public safety in a different direction.”
I believe I was removed for two reasons, the only two issues which the governor has ever discussed with me as challenges, and which he reiterated directly in a phone conversation we had on Feb 8:
1. I loudly advocated to improve 911 dispatch services to rural communities in spite of the Governors reluctance to do so. This work that needs to be done, quite literally, to save lives. Though the DPS experts, men and women who have done this work for decades along with a nationally renowned telecommunications expert, presented a detailed, strategic plan to provide life saving improvements to 911 dispatch services in our most vulnerable and underserved communities, a plan that would have saved the state approx 700k annually (documented fact), the governor elected to instead require the DPS to continue issuing multi million dollar contracts to the Mat Su and the Kenai Peninsula Boroughs- actions which will cost the state more money (documented fact — this is not opinion)for the same level of service, foregoing the improvement to rural Alaska public safety. I opposed this vehemently. My strenuous objections are noted in emails directly to the GOA, the COS and the working group.
2. The second pinnacle was reached when I made a recent personnel decision. I am limited in my discussion of this action. On its face this personnel decision is a decision well within my statutory authority (Alaska Statute 44.17.40). However there are some mitigating factors that made my removal of this individual untenable to the Governor. There is much documentation on each of these incidents.
As a person that helped get this governor elected, I (like many Alaskans) am more than disappointed in him.
People before politics, candidate Dunleavy said. Fix government, he said. No status quo, he said. And his favorite thing to say was “don’t get Stockholm syndrome” — his reference to his expectation that as leaders, we make changes that are right, regardless of politics.
Candidate Dunleavy and his philosophies are not how Governor Dunleavy governs.
I was humbled to serve among the incredible professionals within the DPS, extremely proud of all that we achieved, and eternally grateful for their exceptional service to Alaskans. I count this experience as a true blessing and will value the memories, while being incredibly proud of the team I worked with and all we achieved.
DPS is a bright spot in our state — filled with incredibly dedicated and relentlessly hard working men and women, and it was my true privilege to work for them, and for Alaska.