ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A former Pennsylvania judge who went on to become a state worker in Alaska has suddenly resigned, amid questions about whether his family political connections played a role in his hiring.
Paul Pozonsky was a judge in Pennsylvania’s Washington County before he quit that post under an investigative cloud in June. He was hired as a workers’ compensation hearing officer with the Alaska Labor Department in October, and the Anchorage Daily News last week questioned whether his connections had anything to do with that.
Pozonsky is the brother-in-law of Chuck Kopp, an aide to Eagle River Republican Sen. Fred Dyson, the newspaper reported. Kopp was also picked by then-Gov. Sarah Palin to serve as public safety commissioner, but lasted just 14 days before resigning amid sexual harassment allegations from a former job.
Last week, a Daily News columnist raised questions about the hiring process for the position Pozonsky was given. The application process had been closed, candidates had been interviewed and a hiring decision appeared imminent when “the application process was re-opened, a new application arrived, and a late applicant, Paul Pozonsky, got hired,” the column said.
A reporter from the newspaper called the state Labor Department Thursday to get more details about Pozonsky’s hiring. Pozonsky quit the same day.
“Personnel records, including information about an applicant’s interview and selection process, are confidential” under state law, Greg Cashen, assistant labor commissioner, told the newspaper in an email.
Attempts to reach Pozonsky for comment were unsuccessful, the newspaper reported. The Associated Press could not immediately find a valid phone number for him Saturday.
Several news organizations in Pennsylvania reported this year that the Attorney General’s Office had been investigating Pozonsky.
In May, he ordered the destruction of evidence in 17 criminal cases. The district attorney for Washington County, Gene Vittone, filed a motion to halt the destruction, saying that some of the evidence was personal property and that normally local law enforcement rules guided evidence destruction.
“It’s highly unusual. That’s what caught our attention. We had no idea what property was involved,” Vittone told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in July.
But the evidence already had been destroyed, according to paperwork filed by Pozonsky.
On May 31, the presiding judge for Washington County Court of Common Pleas, Debbie O’Dell Seneca, removed Pozonsky from hearing any criminal cases.
Pozonsky had long drawn attention for unusual courtroom tactics. In 2000, he played the Christian country song, “The Little Girl,” at a death-penalty sentencing of a woman convicted of starving her daughter.
Pozonsky’s wife is the former Sara Crapuchettes, whose brother is Kopp.
Sara Pozonsky is the granddaughter of Alaska homesteaders whose late father started Christian schools here. She and sister-in-law Trish Kopp, who also is an aide to Dyson, run a seafood business, Wild Alaskan Salmon Co.
Pozonsky, who earned $169,541 as a judge, resigned from the bench June 29. His Alaska salary was about $80,000 a year, according to the Department of Administration.