GOVERNOR PLACES OIL AND GAS CHIEF ON LEAVE
A hearing officer has determined that Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Chairman Hollis French was indeed chronically absent from his job and that his absenteeism “had a deleterious affect on office morale, employees and staff and caused a reallocation of work away from Commissioner French and to others.”
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has placed French on administrative leave, with pay. Not all of the charges against French were found to have merit, but there were enough that the governor must now decide if he should simply dismiss him.
In Petumenos’ report, Petemunos said the commission’s work was not delayed or affected in any material way because the other commissioners chose to cover for French by doing his work for him.
“While the notes/journal/diary contain some errors, the document presents substantial evidence that the overall pattern of Commissioner French’ s presence in the offices of AGOCC was perennially and significantly less than a full day. Leave slips did not account for these absences, which were more norm than the exception,” Petumenos wrote.
“Testifying witnesses presented by the State from the offices of the AOGCC agreed that Commissioner French’s absences had a deleterious affect on morale, showed poor leadership and created tension within the office. Witnesses from the office stated that workload was affected by Commissioner French’s absences such that others had to take on more responsibility. The Hearing Officer finds that Commissioner French routinely was absent from Commission offices for substantial parts of the normal workday and that this affected morale at the office, constituted poor leadership and resulted in reallocation
In other words, French was taking a paycheck from the State of Alaska, but not working. The other two commissioners kept things on track while French’s whereabout were unknown. They could not assume that they’d get relief in a complaint to the former governor, who appointed French to pay him back for a political favor. So they waited, and documented his offenses.
Ultimately, when Gov. Dunleavy was elected, the two other commissioners wasted no time in filing a complaint about French’s complete disregard for his duties.
On the other hand, the charge that French was browbeating the other commissioners was found to be lacking evidence. The hearing officer said that French was forceful in his opinions, but that didn’t constitute grounds for removal. Other complaints from the two oil and gas commissioners against French also didn’t stick.
But the charge that French violated security measures did seem to concern the hearing officer. French revealed the location of well data to a reporter, and later to a law student. French didn’t dispute that he revealed the safe where the well data was hid, and his action prompted the other two commissioners to write more specific rules about revealing locations of sensitive information.
The other two commissioners ended up moving the safe to another location without informing French, who only discovered it was moved when he again was revealing the safe to someone, which is when French discovered the safe had been moved.
In all, the report indicates that the governor has enough grounds to remove French from his position. It’s just a matter of him deciding whether he should do so.