Former state employee threatens suit to regain job
The ACLU of Alaska is threatening to sue Gov. Mike Dunleavy if a former state employee isn't rehired to her old position and given back pay.
Keren Lowell was the Visual and Literary Arts Program Director for the Alaska State Council on the Arts and had worked for the organization since 2011. That ended back in June when she and the rest of the employees got let go due to budget cuts.
However, the agency got its funding restored later in the summer, and the staff got re-hired — except for Lowell. So she asked for her job back.
The state denied her request in a Sept. 30 email. It said that, even though Lowell's work and "contribution to ASCA was beyond exceptional," she was not being rehired because of statements she made about the governor on social media.
The ACLU of Alaska, on behalf of Lowell, sent a demand letter to the governor Thursday calling for her to be rehired and given back pay.
"I was critical of the policies around the funding cuts. I was pretty outspoken about the impact that it had on all Alaskans, and especially the vulnerable populations," Lowell said. "I did join the Recall Dunleavy campaign after we were let go. I didn't expect the funding to get restored, so I was just a member of the public who was going to support that action."
Lowell declined to say exactly what she posted about the governor that cost her her job but did not seem to regret her comments.
"A friend, early in the process, said something to the effect of, silence will not set you free; it will not release you from this," Lowell said. "For the first time really in my life I was pretty vocal, and I stand by what I said."
The governor's office released a statement Thursday that said, "At this time we have not received notice on this issue from the ACLU, and considering this letter addresses personnel issues and threatens potential litigation, it is not appropriate to comment at this time. We will respond in due course after a thorough review and consultation with the Department of Law."
The ACLU has given the governor until Jan. 9 to comply with its demands or else, it says, it will file a lawsuit.
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