Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

 
 

Sanctioned ex-cop to lead ferry security

 


Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott is calling for Gov. Sean Parnell to rescind the hire of former Haines Borough Police Department Sgt. Jason Joel to the Alaska Marine Highway System.

The ferry system hired Joel as a security officer in May.

Joel resigned from the Haines Borough Police Department under questionable circumstances in April 2011 after working for the department for five years. Former police chief Gary Lowe said he received “multiple” complaints about Joel’s conduct, but wouldn’t elaborate on their nature.

In exchange for Joel’s resignation, Lowe agreed to withhold specific information about the complaints from the public and prospective employers.

But former police dispatcher Angie Goodwin, 46, this week told KHNS News that Joel harrassed her, including with unwelcome sexual remarks, during her two years at the department.

“There was some form of harassment, either physical, verbal or sexual, almost every time that we worked together,” Goodwin told KHNS.

KHNS also reported that “several other women in Haines and Skagway say they either witnessed or experienced harassment by Joel” but were unwilling to go on the record.

Goodwin told KHNS she was frustrated by the lack of action against Joel and decided to speak out after hearing Joel was chosen for the ferry job.

“Now he’s got the whole state underneath him. What are they thinking?” Goodwin told the station.

Joel left the Galena Police Department for reasons officials there would not disclose, and surrendered his police certificate to the Alaska Police Standards Council on July 26, 2012, after the council began investigating him and moved forward with the certificate revocation process.

The council accepted forfeiture of Joel’s certificate at its December 2012 meeting, but would not release details of its discussion, which occurred in executive session.

According to the job description on the Department of Transportation’s website, Joel is supervisor to security officers working on-board the ferries and at the ferry terminals. He is also responsible for receiving and evaluating security information and assessing potential threats to the ferry system.

Joel is the incident commander in the event of a major security incident.

DOT spokesman Jeremy Woodrow would not answer questions about Joel’s hire, including whether a background check was conducted and if the person responsible for hiring Joel knew about his previous resignations and his surrendered police license.

Woodrow would also not say how many other candidates applied for the job, or who was responsible for hiring Joel.

“The hiring process for the state of Alaska is confidential information,” Woodrow said.

Woodrow also wouldn’t provide Joel’s salary, citing only a range between $59,900 and $96,700 annually.

“Mr. Joel met the qualifications required for the AMHS Security Officer position. He accepted the position and has started working for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Alaska Marine Highway System,” Woodrow said.

Mallott’s campaign manager Mary Halloran said she has been contacted by people who claim they were either harassed by Joel or witnessed Joel harassing women.

“People who have had to deal with the fallout from Mr. Joel’s former employment in Haines have contacted us directly,” Halloran said.

Halloran would not release names, nor would she say how many people have contacted Mallott’s staff. “It’s more than one,” she said.

Halloran said she doesn’t doubt the veracity of the claims that Joel’s resignations were the result of harassment of women.

“I’m confident that they are warranted, particularly because Mr. Joel voluntarily surrendered his police certification, which isn’t, shall we say, a normal response,” Halloran said.

Though Mallott has demanded Gov. Parnell cancel Joel’s hire, nobody has responded to the call. “(DOT) has not responded. The governor has not responded,” Halloran said Wednesday.

Former Haines Borough Police Chief Gary Lowe, who resigned last year amid allegations that he was abusive toward staff, suggested in a December 2012 CVN story that Joel’s history would serve as a deterrent to his future hire.

“If any employer is looking to employ someone and you call up a prior employer and they say, ‘We have a contractual agreement that all we can tell you is his hiring date and his last day of work,’ that certainly ought to be a red flag to a prospective employer,” Lowe said.