Duncan lashes out at what he calls 'whisper campaign'

Posted: Thursday, November 28, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Commissioner Jim Duncan lashed out at what he called a ''whisper campaign'' accusing him and other Democrats of illegally using state telephones to wage a get-out-the vote effort prior to the Nov. 5 election.

Duncan accused family members of GOP state senate candidate Cathy Munoz of fueling the rumors that a conference room in the State Office Building was used for political purposes.

''This is not the type of politics we have ever seen in Juneau,'' Duncan said. ''They are trying to discredit me for some reason, when there is no rationale.''

Munoz lost her bid to incumbent Democrat Kim Elton for Juneau's state senate seat. Duncan supported Elton's campaign and as head of the state Department of Administration, oversees the state office building.

Duncan sent an angry letter to Munoz' father, Elton, in which he responded to several questions raised after the Nov. 5 election. He sent copies of that letter to media organizations including The Associated Press.

Cathy Munoz would not comment and said her campaign is not involved in the dispute, which began after her brother Allan Engstrom contacted the state attorney general.

Allan Engstrom, who worked on Munoz campaign, also asked for telephone records from the conference room and Duncan's office phone. The request, filed under the federal Freedom of Information Act, asked for records between Oct. 1 and Nov. 5.

Engstrom said the allegations surfaced after a janitor told him she witnessed strange activity in the conference room after normal business hours. He was not acting on behalf of the Munoz campaign and he did not accuse Sen. Kim Elton of wrongdoing, Engstrom said.

''This has nothing to do with the Munoz campaign other than the fact that I am personally curious what went on up there,'' Engstrom said.

Attorney General Bruce Botelho said his office is looking into the matter but so far attorneys have been unable to locate witnesses to corroborate the story.

''We're checking it out in any event, because obviously these are serious allegations. Commissioner Duncan, for his part, sees it as a serious charge against his integrity.''

Duncan is a former Democrat lawmakers appointed by Gov. Tony Knowles. He will leave office on Monday when Gov.-elect Frank Murkowski is sworn in.

Duncan accused Engstrom's family of waging a smear campaign against his character in the weeks before he leaves office. Elton Engstrom, Cathy's father, unsuccessfully ran against Duncan for a state House seat several years ago.

Duncan said he has received an anonymous phone call at his home from someone accusing him of illegal activity. He also said Elton Engstrom confronted him at church about the alleged illegal phone bank.

Elton Engstrom could not be reached for comment. Allan Engstrom denied that his father confronted Duncan.

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