French says his removal from commission was a 'political firing'
Hollis French says his removal as chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was political.
"In my view, this is a political firing," French said. "In my view, I was standing up for the public interest in preventing waste in our valuable oil and gas resources."
French believes his co-commissioners worked together to push him out of his position after he sent a letter to former-Gov. Bill Walker following a gas leak in the Cook Inlet last year.
French provided the letter he wrote to former Walker to KTVA.
"The day after I wrote the governor, the day after, suddenly my co-commissioner in a secret email he didn't include me, he says 'We may now have a for cause case,'" French said.
As of publication, KTVA was not able to verify emails purportedly sent between the other commissioners regarding French's removal from the commission.
French was selected for the position by Walker in 2016. The governor at the time cited French's many years in the oil industry and hands-on oil field experience as assets he would bring to the commission.
In a letter released Tuesday, Gov. Dunleavy dismissed him from his post, saying he was terminated for cause.
"For cause is the operable legal term that's the only way that you can get rid of an office like mine," French added. "I don't serve at the pleasure of the governor. To be independent means we have security in our jobs; or should have."
A set of findings regarding French, compiled by hearing officer Tim Petumenos, cited “chronic unexcused absenteeism” on French’s part. According to Petumenos, staff documented French’s presence in the office by mid-July 2017 at “perennially and significantly less than a full day,” with French’s secretary saying that finding excuses for his absence made her “uncomfortable.”
According to Dunleavy’s letter, French has 30 days to appeal his dismissal.
French was once tapped as Democrat Byron Mallott’s running mate during the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, before Mallott became Bill Walker’s running mate in the “unity ticket” that defeated then-Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican.
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