Former Ketchikan School Board President Trevor Shaw has been nominated to the state Commission on Judicial Conduct by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Shaw faced questioning on Wednesday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senators asked Shaw about allegations against him detailed in many letters sent by Ketchikan residents opposing his nomination. The allegations stem from Shaw’s time on the school board, particularly the last year – 2018 – which was a tumultuous time for the district.
One of the allegations senators asked about was Shaw’s connection to Doug Edwards, a former Ketchikan High School teacher who was arrested in mid-June on charges that he sexually abused a 14-year-old student at the school and in other locations.
Edwards has pleaded guilty, and faces sentencing in April.
Shaw told the committee that Edwards was his childhood pastor, and officiated his wedding. Shaw said he had limited contact with Edwards in recent years, and was closer to the victim and her family.
Sen. Peter Miccichi, a Soldotna Republican, was particularly concerned about Shaw’s role as president of the school board while complaints about Edwards’ conduct were known.
An independent investigation of the district’s actions shows six formal complaints about Edwards since 2013.
“I wonder how many additional young people were victimized by the district and therefor the school board essentially ignoring the repeated occurrences happening in seven different incidents,” Miccichi said. “I guess the question I have is what policies were being created by the school board while you were president to intervene in this situation?”
Miccichi questioned how Shaw could adequately evaluate judicial conduct in light of what he referred to as “deficiencies.”
Shaw, who called in to the hearing, responded that he and the rest of the board learned about Edwards’ conduct when he was arrested, and had no information about previous complaints. He said the point of the third-party investigation was to learn, “When did this happen? How long has this been going on? And are there any more incidents? Ultimately what it came down to was a breakdown in what the administration was telling the board with regard to Mr. Edwards’ conduct, and what was in his personnel file and what had happened.”
Sen. Mike Shower, a Wasilla Republican, asked Shaw whether there was an organized opposition to his service on the Ketchikan School Board and to his nomination to the commission.
Shaw said it does appear to be the case. He said people who testified at school board meetings started out focusing on contentious teacher-contract negotiations.
“Those folks, as soon as the Edwards arrest occurred, they transitioned from talking about negotiations to making the allegations and the rumors and the gossip that I somehow knew about what was going on with that situation,” he said.
Shaw said many of those same people wrote letters to the Senate committee members, and provided information to online news blogs. He said it all stems from the tense union negotiations.
Shaw resigned from the school board in fall of 2018, after a citizen-led recall petition was certified, and a recall vote was scheduled for the October election. He told the committee that he believes the recall effort was connected to the Edwards case.
“I do not recall off the top of my head when the petition was actually filed and certified for circulation of signatures to when the arrest of this person was announced,” he said. “The time frame for being able to collect enough signatures to put it on the ballot is limited by statute, so they’re relatively simultaneous with each other.”
Edwards’ arrest was announced on June 12, 2018. The recall petition application was approved for collection of signatures on July 23.
The recall cited an incident when Shaw didn’t allow a student board member to participate in a discussion unrelated to Edwards or contract negotiations. However, recall sponsors told KRBD that their big concern was what they considered a lack of positive response to community members’ concerns over contract negotiations.
Shaw also described his background to the committee. The qualifications he listed included his experience in Youth Court, his years on the Ketchikan School Board, and his three-year term on the state Juvenile Justice Committee.
He added that he would conscientiously investigate any allegations of misconduct against a member of the state judiciary.
“The approach of being someone who has been falsely accused, I’m able to take the mindset of: Never take a situation for granted, never judge a book by its cover, look at the details, look at the people involved, look at the facts, how did it play out, what truly happened, telling it like it is, and how does that play out in the situations, the complaints that the commission would be reviewing,” he said.
The Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct comprises three state judges, three attorneys and three members of the public. Shaw has been nominated for one of the public seats.