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New Alaska hearing officer, a former Washington County judge, quits abruptly amid review

| Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, 4:34 p.m.

ANCHORAGE — A former Pennsylvania judge hired in Alaska as a workers' compensation hearing officer was under review regarding his Alaska residency — a requirement for the job — before he abruptly quit, according to state documents.

Paul Pozonsky, 57, resigned from the Alaska position Dec. 6 after two months on the job. He has declined to comment.

His hiring was approved Sept. 2 for an annual salary of $79,464, more than $12,000 over the compensation listed in the job posting. That posting also contained a provision that it was open to “Alaska Residents Only,” according to documents obtained by The Anchorage Daily News after a records request.

Pozonsky was a judge in Washington County for more than 28 years when he announced June 29 that he would retire the next day.

The previous month, President Judge Debbie O'Dell Seneca reassigned Pozonsky to preside over only civil court cases. Seneca made the move after Pozonsky ordered the destruction of evidence in more than a dozen criminal drug cases.

Pozonsky vacated the destruction order after prosecutors pointed out that defendants had due process rights regarding their property, but evidence was destroyed.

The Alaska Division of Workers' Compensation administers disputes between workers and employers over medical insurance claims and benefits, which generate about 30,000 cases annually. Only about 300 reach a hearing before a three-person panel that includes a hearing officer.

Five people applied for the hearing officer job last summer. Not all met minimum requirements, and the state extended recruitment to Aug. 13.

An editorial page columnist in December questioned Pozonsky's hiring.

According to state documents, Department of Labor officials were checking on Pozonsky's residency on the day before he resigned.

State Labor Commissioner Dianne Blumer has acknowledged that the recruitment process for the hearing officer post “appears to have failed.” She said neither she nor Gov. Sean Parnell was involved in Pozonsky's hiring.

The Anchorage Daily Newscontributed to this report.

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