"(The opinion) suggests that if there is no special session of the legislature to confirm General Campbell as the second-in-line appointee prior to the transition between the Palin and Parnell administrations, then he should be designated as temporary/acting lieutenant governor pursuant to Alaska statutes," Sullivan wrote.
"We believe that this approach is consistent with Alaska's constitutional and statutory designs that clearly underscore the critical public interest of continuity in the principal executive offices of the state. It also preserves the legislature's interest and responsibilities in confirming General Campbell to the second-in-line position, at a later date."
Questions have surrounded the order of succession ever since Gov. Sarah Palin announced a week ago she was quitting at the end of the month.
During her announcement, and in a subsequent press release, Palin said that Campbell, currently the commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, would be elevated to lieutenant governor upon the transfer of power from Palin to current Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell.
But this statement was in contradiction to the successor approved by the Legislature during the last session. Department of Corrections commissioner Joe Schmidt was confirmed as the lieutenant general-designee, replacing former Attorney General Talis Colberg who had resigned.
"This situation -- a second-in-line appointment during a legislative recess and a subsequent lieutenant governor vacancy -- raises questions about proper constitutional and statutory succession procedures," Sullivan wrote.
"These are important issues for the State of Alaska, requiring consideration of executive and legislative responsibilities, including the powers of appointment and confirmation, and the implementation of constitutional and statutory procedures intended to ensure that there is no gap in the line of succession for the office of governor," Sullivan wrote.
"Moreover, while the facts giving rise to these questions are unique and of first impression for the state, it is conceivable that the issues ... could arise in a number of similar situations. Because the issues are challenging, capable of recurring, and of significant import to the lawful and smooth transition of Alaska's state government, I am issuing this advice as an Attorney General's Opinion," Sullivan wrote.
Further muddying the legal waters has been Schmidt himself, who has said he didn't want to be lieutenant governor, submitted a letter of resignation to Palin, then said he would serve as lieutenant governor until the legal questions were resolved.
Schmidt's letter of resignation and a subsequent letter from Palin to Campbell are dated July 6 and July 7, respectively, days after Palin's initial announcement, indicating a certain lack of preparation for the transition of government on the outgoing governor's part when she said Campbell was the guy.
The Legislature's top attorney also weighed in, saying that it is unlikely that Palin could simply appoint Campbell without him being confirmed, but ambiguity and conflict in the constitution and statutes make for "unresolved questions," a stance echoed somewhat by Sullivan.
The head of the House Judiciary Committee -- Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks -- announced on Wednesday he would hold confirmation hearings beginning Monday.
Mike Nizich, Palin's chief of staff who will stay on in the same capacity under Parnell's, expressed dismay over the developments of the last week.
"I've never seen anything like what we are faced with," he said at an afternoon press conference. "It's unfortunate that we are here talking about this subject matter because the governor is stepping down from her position."
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