By ART CHANCE
Probation Officer Kendall Rhyne added his State of Alaska business card to that of Alaska Human Rights Commission Executive Director Buscaglia, as the two made a veiled threat to a tradesman over a “Black Rifles Matter” decal on his vehicle.
The two worked in concert by harassing the plumber, who had parked his truck in the parking lot of the Human Rights Commission. The agency shares a building in downtown Anchorage with the Corrections Department’s Probation Office.
Buscaglia is now gone. She quit, rather than face the ignominy of making an apology. After serving her slap on the wrist suspension of 15 days, she could have hung on at least until Gov. Michael Dunleavy had the opportunity to appoint a majority of the staggered-term commissioners who hired her, and who let her remain on duty in spite of her transgressions.
But the the Human Rights Commission has always been little more than a sinecure for leftist ideologues, and she couldn’t bear the thought of apologizing and thus admitting she might have done something wrong when she ordered the tradesman to remove his truck and its “offensive” decal from the parking lot.
Rhyne has since dropped below the radar, but he is almost as guilty as Buscaglia; he just didn’t have the Department of Corrections’ social media platform to spread venom like Buscaglia had with the commission’s Facebook page, when she used State of Alaska resources to mock and degrade a citizen who holds beliefs different from hers.
Rhyne is a Probation Officer V. He is the chief probation officer for Anchorage and one of only four at that rank in the state. He’s a comfortable Range 22.
It takes awhile to get to a Probation Officer V, and he undoubtedly has a bunch of “steps,” so he makes $100,000 per year or more.
For those of you unfamiliar with the State’s pay schemes, merit system salaries in ranges that start with a 2, particularly 21 – 23, are the top of the food chain in the non-political ranks. The Range 20-somethings are like the “Permanent Undersecretaries” in State government; they’re the ones who know they’ll be attending the directors’ and commissioners’ going-away parties at the change of administration. After that farewell party, they’re the ones going back to work the next day. I know because I used to be one.
Buscaglia was a political appointee hired in a Democrat (Walker) administration; she was expected to be a leftist ideologue. Rhyne, however, is a career law enforcement officer; there’s a big difference, or there should be.
Probation officers are not uniformed but are usually armed. They they look innocuous, but they have tremendous authority over probationers. They can show up at a probationer’s house or work at any time without warning or warrant and if anything is untoward, the probationer leaves in handcuffs.
If a probation officer can convince a judge that the probationer was violating the conditions of probation, it is back to jail for the probationer.
The Department of Corrections was in my portfolio for much of my career with the State, so I had a lot of dealings with probation officers. The minimum qualification is a degree, so they consider themselves a cut above mere cops and correctional officers.
Some of them were straight up, squared away law enforcement officers. Some of them were social workers with a badge. Most of them maintained a discrete, professional distance from the probationers. Some of them wanted to hold hands and sing Kumbaya with them.
Some wanted to do more than hold hands, and we fired quite a few for that.
The only thing Buscaglia could do to the plumber-with-the-truck-decal was rant about him on the internet. Rhyne, on the other hand, knows practically every cop and judge in Anchorage and could make a tradesman’s life a living hell. Rhyne should have known better than to participate in Buscaglia’s little show of “resistance,” and he should pay a price for having participated in it.
But we’ll never know what, if anything, the Department of Corrections does to him. He’s a classified, unionized employee and is protected by the confidentiality provisions of AS 39.25.080; the only thing the public gets to know about his employment is “name, rank, and serial number.”
No, they can’t fire him, assuming he has a clean record. Unless an employee already has a record of discipline, it is almost impossible to fire a public employee for a single incident of misconduct unless there is violence or crime involved.
Were I still wearing my old hat, I’d be willing to try to sustain a 30-day suspension without pay. 30 days is the biggie, short of dismissal, because 30 days sets back your retirement date by a month; any unpaid absence over 23 days adjusts your service time for merit or longevity increases and your retirement date.
The State needs to take a piece of Ryne. He needs to feel some pain for being stupid. That’s a real problem today; we reward rather than punish stupid.
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.