Dunleavy Chief: 'No public servant is irreplaceable'
An airport director, executive assistants, physicians, budget analysts and attorneys —hundreds of them.
Those are a sample of positions targeted for resignation letters from Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy’s new administration.
Last week, Dunleavy’s Chief of Staff Tuckerman Babcock sent a memo to nearly 800 exempt employees asking them to submit a resignation letter and reapply for their job.
It’s customary for commissioners and other high-level state workers to resign and indicate their interest to remain or move on.
But Babcock cast a much wider net, causing increasing angst among lower-level employees unaccustomed to submitting the letter.
“The Legislature has outlined who does and who does not serve at will to – or at the pleasure of – the chief executive,” Babcock said. “We thought It was appropriate to ask all of those employees to submit a letter of resignation to let us know whether or not they want to continue in service.”
A few hours after announcing the memo last week, Babcock said he wasn’t looking to clean house, saying a “wholesale replacement of employees is not the objective, the goal or even the thought."
“I think many people are responding more dramatically than they need to,” he added on Tuesday. “This is just, to us, a natural thing.”
Outgoing Department of Administration Commissioner Leslie Ridle didn’t see it that way.
“I think that's a pretty callous statement to say when you're telling 800-plus employees they might lose their job,” she said. “then telling them they are being over dramatic when they are worried about feeding their families and taking care of their families.”
The list came in two major waves, about 700 on Friday and another 100 on Monday. Many names were predictable: cabinet members, commissioners such as Ridle, who has spent much of this week cleaning out her office in advance of Dunleavy’s Dec. 3 swearing-in.
The real eye-opener was the number of attorneys forced to submit the resignation letter – more than 330 – or about 40 percent of the total memos – from the Department of Law and the Department of Administration’s Office of Public Advocacy.
The number quickly caught former Anchorage prosecutor Clint Campion’s attention.
“I don’t necessarily believe a number of prosecutors are going be let go as a result of this, but I just think it undermines the trust and confidence the prosecutors have in the new administration,” said Campion, who now works for an Anchorage firm. “I don’t know what the motivator is, but it creates a great deal of uncertainty and distraction at a point where you’re heading into the holidays and maybe you’re excited about the new administration.”
Campion also said the timing couldn’t be worse. The workforce still hasn’t returned to that of 2014 when budget cuts began and recruiting prosecutors could be more difficult in the coming months.
Campion says recruiting can already be inherently difficult because there are no law schools in Alaska.
“When you get them, the real goal is to see if you can keep them for more than two years,” he said. “You want to develop their skills so they are handling more serious cases.
“Then they think about doing it for three to five years and the state gets that real benefit from the extra service. Those are the people I’m worried about, the ones who have a ton of opportunity in and out of Alaska, who may feel disenfranchised by this decision.”
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