Report: Alaska Attorney General quits after reports of sexual misconduct with 17-year-old

A white man speaks at a podium
Assistant Attorney General Ed Sniffen addresses the Juneau Chamber of Commerce on July 11. (Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Alaska’s then-attorney general resigned while the Anchorage Daily News and the ProPublica investigative journalism organization were preparing an article about allegations of sexual misconduct with a 17-year-old girl three decades ago.

The Daily News and the ProPublica Local Reporting Network reported Saturday that the resignation of Ed Sniffen was announced Friday as they were reporting the allegations made by Nikki Dougherty White, now 47.

She told the news organizations that she and Sniffen began a sexual relationship in 1991 while she was a student at West Anchorage High School. At the time, he was a 27-year-old attorney with a local law firm and a coach of her school’s mock trial competition team, the news organizations reported.

The sexual relationship began during a trip to New Orleans for a national competition when she was 17, and it continued for about two years back in Anchorage, she said.

A former teammate told the news organizations that White told her about the sexual encounter while the team was in New Orleans.

An Alaska law enacted in 1990 months before Sniffen and White traveled to New Orleans said it is illegal for an adult to have sex with a 16- or 17-year-old whom he or she was teaching, counseling or coaching.

In a letter Sniffen sent Friday to Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Sniffen said he resigned “for personal reasons.”

“It has been a pleasure working with you, and I wish your administration the best,” he wrote.

Sniffen did not immediately return a call for comment Saturday.

Dunleavy spokesman Jeff Turner said in a statement Saturday that when the governor “accepted Mr. Sniffen’s resignation, he was unaware of the allegations against him. As details of the allegations became known, the Governor directed Attorney General Treg Taylor to appoint a special outside council, independent of the Department of Law, to investigate possible criminal misconduct by Mr. Sniffen.”

White told the Daily News and ProPublica that she dated Sniffen for about two years from 1991 to 1993. Public records show White and Sniffen lived at the same address in Anchorage after she turned 18, the news organizations reported.

Attorney Michael D. White, the statewide coordinator of the high school mock trial competitions in the early 1990s, said that within a year of the New Orleans trip, the event organizers also learned that Sniffen was in a relationship of some kind with one of the students he had coached.

White, who is not related to Nikki White, told the Daily News and ProPublica that the mock trial organizers looked into the matter and were assured that the sexual relationship did not begin until after the school competition.

Sniffen is the second Alaska attorney general to step down within the past six months amid a Daily News and ProPublica investigation into their interactions with women.

Former Attorney General Kevin Clarkson quit in August, hours after the newsrooms revealed he had sent hundreds of unwanted text messages to a a female state employee who did not report to him. Sniffen was named his temporary replacement and, on Jan. 18, Dunleavy designated him as Clarkson’s permanent successor.

Dunleavy appointed Treg Taylor attorney general to replace Sniffen.