Labor Department official pleads guilty to harassment

Posted: Thursday, January 04, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- A state labor department official pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor harassment charge, acknowledging that he made an unwanted physical advance toward a woman Oct. 1.

Dwight Perkins, a former deputy commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, had just started a new job as Gov. Tony Knowles' legislative director when the two harassment charges became public in November.

In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop a second count of harassment based upon another woman's statement that Perkins touched her in an offensive way on one occasion between July 1999 and March 2000.

He initially pleaded innocent, but left his position with the governor's office. He returned to the state Labor Department as assistant to Commissioner Ed Flanagan, with duties similar to those he had in six years as deputy commissioner.

It's not clear whether Perkins will keep the job. Flanagan noted Tuesday that he has said ''in the event that there was a guilty plea, I'd have to reassess.'' He said that's what he's doing now.

Perkins, also a former Juneau Assembly member, was deputy commissioner of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development throughout both time periods in question.

The state also agreed not to pursue any additional allegations made during its investigation, said Perkins' attorney, Thomas Nave. The agreement does not prevent the state from moving forward on fresh evidence of a crime in the future, the defense attorney said.

Perkins, 47, did not address the court Tuesday except to confirm his change of plea and verify that he understood the conditions of his release. He declined to be interviewed.

He is scheduled for sentencing Feb. 8. The offense carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine and possibly restitution if the victim needs professional counseling.

The victim in the case, whose name was kept confidential, did not attend Tuesday's hearing.

In his plea, Perkins admitted he made an unwanted physical advance toward a woman Oct. 1 while they were opening a building for a meeting. Flanagan has said prosecutors told him the victim did not work for or with Perkins.

According to the woman's account, Perkins persisted in what she thought would be a short hug, rubbed his body against her, fondled her and said he wanted to have sex with her. She later helped police monitor a conversation between them in which Perkins admitted to most of the conduct, according to the criminal complaint filed against Perkins.

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