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Thursday, December 14, 2017
HomeAlaska NewsGeran Tarr: Classic workplace bully?

Geran Tarr: Classic workplace bully?

Rep. Geran Tarr protesting the Legislature, where she serves in a leadership position in the Democrat-led House majority. Decorum has been a challenge for the lawmaker who has served since 2013.

Workplace bullying is not a new affliction, but seldom is it associated with politics.

In Juneau, however, reports of a toxic work environment in the orbit of a certain legislator has everyone talking in hushed tones about whether an intervention is necessary.

Hawkins

That lawmaker is Rep. Geran Tarr, who represents District 19, and is aligned with what can only be described as the far Left, feminist, and environmentalist agenda. Tarr does a lot of scolding, yelling, and lately has been described by aides as “unhinged.”

BADGERING THE WITNESS: Earlier this year, Tarr took the opportunity as the new co-chair of House Natural Resources Committee to exercise her authority.

It was “her committee” now, so she scolded Alaska Oil and Gas Association President Kara Moriarty, who was attempting to testify about how data used by a presenter in a prior presentation was misleading. Scolding Moriarty was a moment of personal triumph for a legislator who until this year had been in the minority.

Kara Moriarty

“Ms. Moriarty, we are not going to make statements like that in this committee,” Tarr warned. “So you’re not going to impugn the motives of that individual. If you want to respond to anything that was said, that’s fine. But we’re not going to do that.”

Moriarty is a grownup and she continued with her testimony (which did, in fact, refute the conclusions of the committee’s star witness but in no way impugned his character).

FINGER-JABBING A COLLEAGUE: Rep. Mike Chenault, the former House Speaker, is also a grownup, after spending the better part of his adult life as a civic and political leader. He was House Speaker from 2009-2017.

After Chenault objected to a procedural aspect of Tarr’s oil tax bill, HB 111, she hurried across the House chamber and brought her stabbing fingers an inch from his face during a break, until he told her the next time she stuck her finger that close to his mouth she should remember that he bites back. A photo part of the exchange was captured by Alaska Dispatch News reporter Nat Herz.

Tarr started screaming, “Are you threatening me? I’m calling security!” And she did. She called Capitol Security. Chenault was seen shaking his head at the whole thing.

That night, according to one witness, “She was screaming at people, freaking out. Testimony was dragging on. She wanted to go home. Andy Josephson was exhausted. Harriet Drummond was in pain with her leg. Geran just lost it, completely came off the rails.”

ABUSING AND LOSING STAFF: Tarr also has a reputation in the building for publicly berating her staff. She is known to belittle and humiliate her own staff members in front of other legislative aides and legislators. No aide wanted to speak on the record, of course, but several independently corroborate this characterization.

Two years ago, one of her new staff members gave her a one-hour notice, left a short resignation note on his computer keyboard, and walked out of the building to return to river guiding. He had only worked for her for two months.

By itself, that might have been an anomaly, but this year another Tarr staffer felt so badly treated that she wrote a letter to House Speaker Bryce Edgmon. And then she quit.

In fact, Tarr is well known in the Capitol for her staff burn rate, which is nearly a complete turnover year over year: Other staffers caution potential recruits about signing on with Tarr, Must Read Alaska is told by multiple insiders.

Working for legislators is not for the faint of heart. They are under a lot of pressure both from constituents and from other lawmakers. That pressure can get to them and their ability to handle others with grace is a mark of true statesmanship.

BULLYING A SENATOR’S STAFF: The “Tarr and Feather” treatment went beyond the House and has spilled into the Senate. Tarr became visibly upset at the trajectory one of her bills was taking in the Senate, left the gallery and in the hallway began berating a senior legislative aide who works for a senator who was raising some well-informed questions.

Witnesses to the incident said Tarr demanded the aide go into the room and straighten out the senator.

That bullying instance was said to be so egregious that word got back to House leadership and she was pulled aside and told to apologize. After all, the last thing Speaker Bryce Edgmon wants is to have angry Senate leadership on his back.

Is Geran Tarr a classic case of workplace bully? We reviewed the human resource literature and came up with a few signals:

HOW TO TELL IF SOMEONE IS BULLYING IN THE WORKPLACE

    • Deliberately ignoring or avoiding a target;
    • Purposefully excluding someone from group meetings, discussions or decisions;
    • Intentionally making someone feel isolated from the team.
    • Discounting or diminishing someone else’s views or concerns;
    • Making someone else feel useless or underused;
    • Only delegating the worst of tasks or responsibilities.
    • Purposefully causing hostile competition between employees;
    • Intentionally creating conflict;
    • Fostering a hostile team environment;
    • Encouraging backstabbing;
    • Publicly ranking employees.
    • Constantly giving unreasonable or non-constructive criticisms;
    • Fostering feelings of shame or guilt in employees;
    • Making employees feel as though their work is unworthy or inadequate.
    • Using an employee as a scapegoat for work mistakes;
    • Blaming others for their own mistakes or faults;
    • Or assuming credit for work that is not their own.
    THE ANECDOTES ARE ADDING UP: In numerous interviews with staffers and legislators who have had dealings with Tarr, several of the above behaviors were described. None was able to go on the record but the inventory of complaints was consistent. What Alaskans working in the Capitol are seeing is a pattern of behavior that may qualify as bullying.
    Verbally abusive Tarr, a hard-left legislator in a party claiming to value inclusivity and respect, may be ripe for a workplace intervention.
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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • How about a recall effort and fire this lunatic? We have no room for the arrogance and hate coming from the liberal left – if she can’t get along with everyone, she needs to be removed from this position of State power.

    • You are so right on that. People like that should never had been in office and act like a child.

  • OMG!!!!! The people of District 17 are idiots.

  • “Tarr and Feather” and “Angry Gabby”, what a pair to draw to but you wouldn’t want 3 of a kind.

  • She must be from portlandia!

  • Don’t you mean District 19???

  • She worked for me moons ago when first arriving in Alaska. No words…

  • How did this become about feminism and/or liberalism? What a ridiculous sidetrack mechanism.Shame on the author and the commentators for trying to tie that into a person’s mental state. This woman appears to be mentally unstable, not because she’s a feminist, but despite that fact.
    Most of we feminists are passionate yet lucid. We’re committed to a worthy cause, and articulate about it. Control freaks and lunatics abound on every side of the political spectrum. Derisive political overtones do a disservice to the real message: this particular legislator’s alleged mental issue is preventing her from doing a good job in office. Take steps to have her examined and possibly removed. The rest sounds like vengeful drivel.

    • Sounded completely on track to me; your feeble attempt to “rescue” your boatmates only served to underline the obvious.

    • So she is not a female and not from the far left, is that what your saying, or are saying she is deranged and unfit for public service

  • Oh shes mental alright, how much more will you peoole put up with, before getting rid of this thing

  • If this was a male legislator he would already be hauled up for charges but since its a woman she gets special treatment. Anyone calling her out in public would of course, especially a male, be instantly accused of being a male chauvinist pig. The feminists would be calling for his head. Such a double standard and they know they can get away with it.

  • It’s time to go Milo on this Femanazi…

  • It’s so disturbing to hear about leaders who bully and berate staff and colleagues (among other people). Outlandish bullying such as that described in this article is bad; subtle bullying is another type which can be just as stressful as overt bullying when you’re the target.

    I became so concerned about the negative effects of bullying on the bullied targets – I wrote a book to help them stop the bullying and end the stress. “Not All Bullies Yell & Throw Things: How to Survive a Subtle Workplace Bully” is available at Amazon at this link: http://bit.ly/1U7k8dW

  • Where’s your article for Sassy Saddler taking a swing at Gara? Awww, it’s different when it’s *your* guys, huh?

    • You’re kidding with this right?

  • She looks like Jabba the Hut

  • One of her male colleagues was censured by that same body for what now appears to be less egregious than the behavior of this , ah, person …

  • Which district is 19? Oh yes, Anchorage, the area of town where the education attainment level is 50% lower than the rest of the State. That is apparently how this unhinged buffoon got elected.
    Based on her track record in this story, I really pity those residents of AK-19 because they are being very poorly represented. A ‘bully’, well that is the PC word for her actions, however based on this story, her issues with working with others in a businesslike manner goes way deeper than just ‘bully’. She is a good study of the standard actions taken by liberal activists however. One can only hope that her district would remove her from any form of ‘public service’.

  • Sounds a lot like our president

  • No excuse for bullying! However it occurs on the right as well and in fact it occurs in all segments of politics. Many well known Alaskan political leaders are infamous for bullying within and without their own group. Shame on all bullies.

  • The Alaska State Senate is full of folks who are bullying the who state by taxing those who have a low income via the ak state dividend. we only want a tax that will all to share the pain. If you take part of the dividend, then an income tax is in order as well and a corporate tax too. A state wide sales tax perhaps is in order as well. The Sens=ate needs to stop its bullying as well.

  • She’s my neighbor. Not a great neighbor. Completely clueless most of the time. And a bit of a joke in the neighborhood.

  • I’m her neighbor. And for years we have dealt with her cluelessness and her far out there reasoning. I’ve got stories that will boggle the mind. She is a complete joke. She is not a true Alaskan. Just a imposter with a crazy agenda. I’m glad this story came out. Finally the rest of Alaska can understand how incredibly clueless she is.
    The only thing that is a bigger joke is that Sean Stevens ran against her twice and lost.

    • *Cean Stevens.