JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The board that regulates Alaska’s legal marijuana industry voted Wednesday to fire the director it shares with state alcohol regulators, a move director Erika McConnell maintained lacked justification.

The Marijuana Control Board voted 3-2 to
fire McConnell, following last month’s vote by the Alcoholic Beverage
Control Board to dismiss her. Wednesday’s vote came at the end of a
daylong meeting in Anchorage, with McConnell delivering a fiery speech
in which she said Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration appeared to want
her out before wishing members well for the remaining two days of

McConnell’s removal was subject to both boards agreeing.

Control Board member Bruce Schulte said he had no unkind words about
McConnell but thought a change in leadership was appropriate. Board
chairman Mark Springer said McConnell has done a good job and the push
to oust her appeared in part to be “something of a railroad job” related
to a dispute over allowable activities in breweries and distilleries.
Springer said the alcohol industry is powerful.

Alcoholic Beverage
Control Board Chairman Bob Klein last month praised McConnell’s work
ethic and administrative skills. But Klein said he saw a disconnect
between the board’s wishes and how McConnell approaches her position.

McConnell said he never raised such issues with her, and she felt she was being pushed out with no good cause.

meeting minutes state the Marijuana Control Board approved without
opposition a motion of confidence in McConnell. Minutes show four
members attended the meeting. Schulte was not yet appointed.

who addressed the board after Wednesday’s vote, said in late August she
learned Assistant Commerce Commissioner Amy Demboski was contacting
Klein and Springer to ask that each board hold an executive session to
discuss personnel issues. McConnell said that, as the boards have
personnel authority over her, “it was clear that the administration was
requesting that the boards remove me as director.”

In an email,
Glenn Hoskinson, a public information officer for the state commerce
department, said the boards acted within their authorities.

“At no
time has the Department of Commerce, its officials, or the
administration requested the board members to remove the director,”
Hoskinson wrote. “The decision whether to remove the executive director
is solely the purview of each Board.”

McConnell said an employment
relationship is based on good faith, “and those of you who have voted
to remove me without actually finding that I’ve done anything wrong or
providing me with an opportunity to correct any issues you have with me
should be ashamed of yourselves.”

She said longtime board counsel
Harriet Milks was reassigned with no reason given. Department of Law
spokeswoman Maria Bahr said by email that the department “cannot comment
on personnel matters, and that includes a reassignment.”

marijuana board heard concerns Wednesday from some in the industry about
such things as training for an inventory tracking system, wait times
and fears of heavy-handed enforcement.

Cary Carrigan, executive
director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, which had members
detail complaints during a public comment period Wednesday, said his
group had not taken a public position on whether McConnell should be

He said members wanted the board to know what they felt
was lacking or needed. He said he is OK with what happened but hopes
it’s a recognition that changes are needed to build out the office and
further support the industry.

McConnell said she worked hard and did her best to uphold the laws. The Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office has great staff but inadequate resources, she said.

By Becky Bohrer

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