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Alaska AG resigns after sending junior state employee inappropriate text messages

In his resignation letter, Kevin Clarkson, the Republican attorney general, apologized for the “discomfort” he caused the female employee.

Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson resigned Tuesday after he admitted to repeatedly sending inappropriate text messages to a junior state employee, the governor announced in a statement.

“Kevin Clarkson has admitted to conduct in the workplace that did not live up to our high expectations, and this is deeply disappointing,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who appointed Clarkson to the role, said. “This morning he took responsibility for the unintentional consequences of his actions and tendered his resignation to me. I have accepted it.”

A report published Tuesday by ProPublica and the Anchorage Daily News revealed the Republican attorney general sent an unnamed junior state employee over 550 text messages to her personal phone, inviting her to his house at least 18 times and often using suggestive emojis.

In messages sent in March, Clarkson referred to the junior employee as “sweet lady,” asking her to come over to his home, and telling her she was “beautiful.” He often used the kiss emoji.

“Haven’t seen you in awhile, so you owe me a number of hugs,” Clarkson texted her March 26, according to ProPublica and the Anchorage Daily News. The attorney general was not the woman’s supervisor, but their jobs required them to interact.

On April 4, the unnamed woman told Clarkson to “please remember this is my personal phone,” and asked him to respect professional boundaries, according to the report.

Clarkson had initially been placed on a monthslong administrative leave of absence without pay, according to the report. Shortly after the account was published, the governor’s office announced Clarkson’s resignation.

In a resignation letter addressed to the governor dated Monday that was provided to NBC News, Clarkson apologized for his actions, saying he regrets that his “errors in judgment … have become a distraction to the good work and good people working in the state’s and your service.”

“I believed we had a positive friendship borne of mutual respect and interests. What I failed to recognize is the impact that these interactions had on this person, due to the disparity in our workplace rank,” Clarkson said. “Of course, I should have recognized this from the start, and should have maintained a more distanced and professional relationship. I am deeply sorry for the discomfort I caused this person, and only wish her well.”

Clarkson does not believe his behavior was inappropriate but understands its impact, he wrote in his resignation letter. “All of these texts were ‘G’ rated. There is nothing remotely salacious about the texts. In our texts we exchanged innocent mutual endearments between us in words and emojis.”

“When this person eventually expressed her discomfort to me, I immediately respected her wishes and ceased communicating with her by text,” he said.

NBC News received an “out of office” message after emailing Clarkson for comment, and forwarded the request to his chief of staff, who did not immediately respond.

Alaska is one of the few states in the country that does not elect its attorney general, who is instead appointed by the governor. Dunleavy appointed Clarkson at the end of 2018, and he was confirmed by the state Legislature in early 2019.

Ed Sniffen, chief of staff, will be the acting attorney general until the governor appoints a replacement, the Alaska Department of Law said in an email.

Recall Dunleavy, the ongoing movement to remove Alaska’s governor from his office that was founded in August 2019, said Clarkson’s behavior is reflective of the governor’s judgment.

“Governor Dunleavy described Clarkson as a ‘wise and trusted legal advisor, a man of exceptional character, and a devoted husband and father,’ to President Trump, and relied on him as Alaska's top legal advisor and officer. It's a sad day for Alaskans to reflect on Dunleavy's poor judgment of character and the choices he makes as our current governor,” Claire Pywell, the campaign manager of Recall Dunleavy, said in a statement Tuesday.