Howard Delo

In last week’s column, I mentioned the “character assassination” of Judge Karl Johnstone by the commercial fisheries folks testifying during his legislative hearings for the nominated position of member of the Board of Fisheries.

Not only did the commercial fishing industry attempt to assassinate Johnstone’s character during the legislative committee hearings with false statements and accusations which have been repeatedly disproven over the years, the legislature itself assassinated his character and reputation during the joint session to vote on the various nominees.

Late in the afternoon of the joint session, out of the blue, Rep. Ivy Spohnholz decided she needed to bring up something she had only heard about shortly before the joint hearing. She stated that “two or more women” had contacted her with the allegation of improper sexual comments supposedly made to them by Judge Johnstone during his previous stint on the BOF.

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The legislature initially voted to table the nomination to allow further investigation of the alleged incidents and to allow Johnstone a chance to respond to them. That makes sense and would have been the proper way to continue with the nomination process. However, later that evening, the subject of Johnstone’s nomination was brought back up, un-tabled, and voted on. Johnstone was not confirmed to the BOF. The commercial fisheries side was successful in blocking Johnstone’s confirmation.

This whole nomination confirmation process could not have been handled in a worse fashion by the legislature. If there was enough cause to investigate the allegations, then that’s what should have been done, prior to having a vote. Johnstone should have been given a chance to respond to his accusers, prior to a vote. The “phantom” accusers should have been identified, as is required in our judicial system. The accused has the right to face his accusers when a situation is alleged to have occurred.

We used to believe that a person was innocent until proven guilty of some violation. Apparently, not any more. The mere accusation of some impropriety by unnamed or even non-existent accusers is enough to damage a person’s reputation, even a person who, only four years before, had been awarded a legislative citation for doing “the gold standard of public service” while serving on the BOF.

The timing of this whole debacle smacks of being a set-up, either by elements within the commercial fishing industry or by someone who had a grudge against Judge Johnstone. And, if it turns out to be a set-up, then Spohnholz would be an accessory along with what ever legislators voted to bring Johnstone’s nomination vote back to the floor after it had been tabled for further review.

I’m not commenting on Johnstone’s guilt or innocence regarding this matter since I don’t know. Perhaps if he did say something, it probably was misinterpreted by the other person in this age of “political correctness.” Personally, I don’t see Karl saying anything like what he was accused of saying. However, if the bumper sticker “Black Rifles Matter” can be interpreted to be a racial statement rather than a support for the Second Amendment, who knows how something Johnstone may have said could be interpreted by an unidentified female accuser.

I have also heard on a news report that the current ADF&G commissioner has done a preliminary investigation into this matter and has found no creditable evidence that anything of this nature has occurred.

I think Johnstone got screwed!

This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman or its parent company, Wick Communications.

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