Woman comes forward about encounter with ex-Alaska official
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Byron Mallott invited a woman to a meeting at a hotel in 2018 in which Alaska’s then-lieutenant governor said he was attracted to her and expressed hope she felt the same, she told the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica of the events that led to Mallott’s resignation.
Jody Potts said she “wanted to cuss him out and tell him that I’m absolutely not interested and remind him that he was an old man. But because of his power, I also realized I couldn’t offend or alarm him for fear of repercussions to my career.” Potts ran a law enforcement program for a Fairbanks-based tribal nonprofit and said Mallott had told her he and then-Gov. Bill Walker had wanted the meeting. Walker was not there.
She said she decided to come forward now because of harassment she said her teenage daughter has faced from people who erroneously think Mallott propositioned the teen. One blog posted a piece with unattributed sourcing referencing a teenage girl in connection with the incident, while another built off that and provided a level of detail sufficient to identify Potts, the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica reported.
Potts said she and her daughter have had enough.
Efforts by The Associated Press to reach Potts on Thursday were not immediately successful.
Mallott died in May. His family told the publications Mallott respected Potts and voluntarily resigned. The family disputes any suggestion he lured Potts to the meeting under false pretenses.
“I can say my dad would never have said Walker was gonna be there if he didn’t think he was. That’s a level of intent that he vigorously denies,” Mallott’s son, Anthony Mallott, said.
Upon Mallott’s resignation in October 2018, within two days of the incident at the Anchorage hotel, Walker described Mallott as having made an inappropriate overture to a woman. But few details were made public. Members of Walker’s administration cited the woman’s desire to remain anonymous.
In emails released to the AP last year as part of a records request, Walker’s wife, Donna Walker, in an email to her husband, said she thought describing the incident as “'inappropriate comments' is a huge understatement and you will be criticized for that. It was the conduct as well of inviting her to his room, and it sounds like there was some discrepancy as to how he greeted/touched her. I think you need to say inappropriate conduct.”
Walker said Mallott had not invited him to the meeting with Potts and said he did not know it was occurring.
Potts said the meeting took place after a gathering of the governor’s advisory council on tribal relations at a state office building in downtown Anchorage, which included her boss, Mallott and, for a period, Walker.
Potts said Mallott, whom she had met years earlier, during a break asked what she was doing afterward. “He said, ‘The governor and I would like to meet with you,’” she said. After the council meeting ended, she told him she was available. He invited her to a nearby hotel.
“It did not even occur to me that this was unusual because I knew politicians sometimes have staff rooms at hotels and I trusted him as Lt. Governor and as an elder,” Potts said in a statement describing the encounter. Mallott was a longtime Alaska Native leader.
After the meeting at the hotel, Potts wrote the power dynamic “actually scared me.” She immediately told two friends and said she told her boss, who suggested he tell Walker and she agreed. Her boss, Victor Joseph, was one of two Alaska Native leaders who called Walker’s chief of staff, Scott Kendall, the outlets reported, adding Joseph did not respond to their interview requests.
Claire Richardson, then-Mallott’s chief of staff, said Mallott acknowledged telling Potts he found her attractive but seemed to think the incident ended “benignly.”
In Mallott’s account to friend and colleagues, he said he intended to meet with Potts at a hotel coffee shop but it was closed, and denied deceiving her by claiming Walker would be there.
“When he told us that when she came into the suite and he said, ‘I find you powerfully attractive,’ I think my jaw hit the floor,” Richardson wrote in response to questions from the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica.
Kendall called Walker, who, weeks before his reelection bid, was going to a debate. They agreed to talk later.
Walker said Mallott, with whom he had a close bond, told him little about what happened, and he didn’t try to learn details.
“It was described that things were said that made Jody uncomfortable,” Walker said.
Walker suspended his re-election campaign shortly after Mallott’s resignation.
Potts' daughter, Quannah Chasing Horse Potts, 18, said she was never alone with Mallott and he never acted inappropriately toward her. The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica reported she was in Fairbanks the night of the incident.
“I am not the victim in this case,” she said, adding she wants her mother to have peace.
The outlets reported Potts signed a nondisclosure agreement as part of a civil settlement at Mallott’s request. Potts and Anthony Mallott declined to provide a copy.
Anthony Mallott described it as “not your usual NDA, for any reason, as opposed to it was an agreement not to get into a ‘he said, she said.’” He described the settlement amount as “minor.”
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