Alaska governor appointee resigns amid background questions

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A member of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Cabinet resigned Thursday amid accusations he lied about his business background.

Department of Administration Commissioner Jonathan Quick tendered his resignation — even after the governor’s office stood behind him — saying he didn’t want to become a distraction.

In his resignation letter, Quick said he refutes some of the claims made against him, but did not go into detail on what claims he’s referencing. Earlier in the day, he clarified comments he made during his confirmation hearing.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski asked when Quick sold his ownership interest in Seattle-area coffee and frozen yogurt businesses, Anthem Coffee and Tea and Elements Frozen Yogurt, and who his co-investors were. Quick said he believed it was in 2014 and the other party was a private party, “a friend from high school.”

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On his resume, Quick said he developed business and brand and marketing plans, hired and trained staff and helped recruit investors and capital for the businesses.

In a letter to senators dated Wednesday, Janie Reynolds said she and her husband have been the only owners of Anthem Coffee and Tea and Elements Frozen Yogurt. She said no one beside her and her husband has had any percentage of ownership.

She said Quick may have offered suggestions but did not conceptualize the business plan. She labeled as false the resume language about recruiting investors and capital.

“No one invested in our company,” she wrote. “All capital sources were applied for and secured by me.”

Quick was hired in 2011 to organize their family business but was fired after a year, she wrote. Quick hoped to be part of the ownership “and would verbalize it as his reality,” she wrote, adding that she declined his requests to put him into part ownership.

Quick said Thursday he had verbally entered into an “equity-stake business venture” with the Reynolds family in 2011. As the businesses grew, he said it became clear the verbal agreement would not lead to a written one and they parted ways.

Messages left for Quick and Reynolds Thursday were not returned.

Quick said he should have clarified that he parted ways with the company, rather than sold an ownership stake. He said his affiliation with the businesses ended in 2012.

“I sincerely apologize for stating this incorrect information and thank you for the opportunity to respond,” he wrote to senators.

Hours later, he resigned.

Dunleavy named Paula Vrana as acting commissioner.

The Department of Administration provides centralized administrative services to state agencies dealing with things such as labor relations, leasing of space and retirement and benefits programs. The public defender agency and Division of Motor Vehicles are among the agencies that fall under the department.

During a news conference before Quick resigned, Wielechowski said he expected a truthful answer from Quick when he asked his question.

He said if Quick were any other state employee, “he would probably be terminated for that action.” A message seeking comment was left with Wielechowski’s office later Thursday.

Meanwhile, a man who came under scrutiny for racially charged and misogynistic social media comments won’t be taking a job with the Department of Administration. Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow said late Thursday that the department informed Dunleavy’s office that Art Chance “declined to accept his offer of employment today.”

“This decision is for the best,” Dunleavy said in a statement.

Chance faced scrutiny for Facebook comments about minorities and women, including Democratic presidential hopeful California Sen. Kamala Harris. Posts from Chance were first highlighted by The Alaska Landmine political blog.

A message seeking comment was left for Chance on Thursday.

Chance posted on Facebook Tuesday that he had accepted a policy post in the Department of Administration. That post did not mention a start date. The state online employee directory didn’t list Chance Thursday.

Shuckerow had previously said a review was being conducted “given the seriousness of these posts.”

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