By ART CHANCE
“Days on the beach” is labor relations slang for somebody being suspended without pay. Alaska Human Rights Commission Director Marti Buscaglia was suspended without pay for 15 days, starting Monday.
The seven commissioners might have let Buscaglia cash in personal leave so she had money for the pay period, but if they’re telling us the truth, she lost a couple of weeks of pay.
In the public employment world, 15 days without pay is a big deal. Where you have a statutory or contractual requirement of progressive and corrective discipline, 15 days off without pay means your string has about run out.
If you’ve had a 15-day suspension without pay and you screw up again, not many arbitrators or administrative law judges are going to have much sympathy for you if you get fired.
In the Human Rights Commission executive director’s case, the commission has no obligation to observe the progressive and corrective discipline rules since she is not a classified or union employee, but rather an appointive employee. If the commission wanted to, they could do nothing to her or they could dismiss her. It’s not quite that simple, but close.
The Human Rights Commission is an artifact of The Great Society, a series of domestic programs with the goal of total elimination of poverty and racial injustice. The 1964 Legislature took time off from dealing with the Good Friday Earthquake to enact it. It can and has been used to shakedown employers with claims from poverty pimps, but mostly it just exists to provide sinecures for minority supporters of an administration.
So, it isn’t surprising that the holdover appointees from the Walker Administration wouldn’t want to take decisive action against one of their own over the “Black Rifles Matter” event.
Executive Director Buscaglia doesn’t work for the governor; she works for the commission. The commission works for the governor and the members, according to AS 18.80.020, are “appointed by the Governor for staggered terms of five years, and confirmed by the legislature.”
They can be removed for cause, but removal of a Democrat appointee for cause by a Republican governor is usually a fight to the Supreme Court. Why bother with a nothing agency and a nothing appointee? This is one of those things that you just let go.
A phone call will make sure that the plumber whose truck decal offended Buscaglia doesn’t get 86’d from work in the building. And make sure the commissioners understand that what goes around, come around.
Art Chance is a retired Director of Labor Relations for the State of Alaska, formerly of Juneau and now living in Anchorage. He is the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at Amazon.