Exodus from troubled Alaska Human Rights Commission board - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, December 8, 2021
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Exodus from troubled Alaska Human Rights Commission board

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It’s a board that is often fraught with controversy; like a perennial in summer, there’s drama blooming on the Alaska Human Rights Commission.

Board Chair Debbie Fullenwider is no longer listed on the state’s directory. She has quit.

Also not on the board is Vice Chair Betsy Engle, whose name was gone from the directory Wednesday morning. And missing from the list is Human Rights Commissioner Cynthia Erickson. In the span of 48 hours, three of the seven commissioners have appeared to have resigned. A fourth is said to be also considering leaving.

The apparent conflict, Must Read Alaska has learned, is over the management of the professional staff of the commission.

Management conflict also arose over the management styles of the previous two executive directors, Marilyn Stewart and Marti Buscalgia.

The drama started with Buscalgia, who was embroiled in controversy in 2019 after she discriminated against a building contractor whose work truck bore a sticker that said, “Black Rifles Matter.” Stewart only lasted a few weeks before being asked to resign by now-former Chair Fullenwider, over a management-style dispute.

Read: Human Rights Executive Director resigns amid controversy over free speech

There has been no announcement about the departures from the Human Rights Commission.

Robert Corbisier, the current executive director, has seen a dramatic drop in workload since the Covid-19 pandemic. With so many workers now working from home, there have been fewer complaints taken up by the agency that handles a variety of human-conflict cases involving how people treat one another and how they may discriminate or not, per the Alaska Human Rights Law, AS 18.80. Seven commissioners are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature.

Remaining on the board are William Craig of Sitka, Kyle Foster of Anchorage, Evelyn Falzerano of Anchorage, and Rebecca Carillo of Juneau.

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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

  • It’s pretty much an unnecessary money suck.

  • Sounds like Buscalgia was a hypocrite to her own job.

  • Just patronage jobs created to give sinecures to Democrats, but Republicans don’t have the guts to leave them vacant or just abolish the unnecessary agency.

    • Not sure whether acting as a commissioner on this commission should be considered a patronage job, but reformation of this agency is a good idea. To the extent that the core mission of the agency is to investigate and stop unlawful discrimination in the regard to employment or housing, a couple of investigators, several support staff and a small number of lawyers could effectively do the job. Transfer the investigation and enforcement functions of this commission to the Office of the Attorney General and get on with the job of dealing with obvious discrimination. We do not need a large commission and all the staff or the drama too frequently found in this outfit. Consolidate key functions in the A..G.’s Office and get on with the job without the goofing around. This commission is located in the Office of the Governor. Why Governor Dunleavy hasn’t acted to get this out-of-control agency right sized and more functional is anyone’s guess..

      • That’s a great idea.

    • Agreed!

  • This so called “board” should be disbanded. It’s doing nothing and now no one wants to be on it. Get rid of it.

  • Time to trim the fat.

  • Cut that program.. save how much money?

  • Eliminate it.

  • Sounds like room for a legitimate decrease within our state government right there. Perhaps eliminate a few of those vacated positions.

  • If you feel you have been discriminated against, file a lawsuit, just like everyone else. We don’t need a bunch of bureaucrats sitting around opining about what they think on the matter. Tell your story to the judge.

  • Can’t agree more with the above comments… If someone has a complaint, why is the State picking up their legal fees by having this commission? They should be paying for their own fees. Abolish the commission and the whole department – except maybe the section that defends the State against complaints of this type.

  • Why is there a need for 7 “commissioners” for ONE podunk department….? Sounds like a waste of our PFD checks and state resources. And state parasites wonder why people go crazy when a income tax is brought up.

  • Boards and commissions are where political hacks go. Either R or D.
    Just depends on who’s governor at appointment time.

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