3 former state workers suing Alaska governor over firings

The ACLU of Alaska and three former state employees announce a lawsuit filed against Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his chief of staff. (KTUU)
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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Three former state employees are suing Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his chief of staff, alleging wrongful termination when Dunleavy took office.

The Alaska Civil Liberties Union of Alaska has filed a lawsuit on behalf of former state attorney Elizabeth Bakalar and one on behalf of psychiatrists Anthony Blanford and John Bellville.

After Dunleavy's election, chief of staff Tuckerman Babcock asked at-will state employees to submit their resignations. In a statement, Babcock said it was appropriate to ask if they wanted to work for the administration.

The lawsuits say Bakalar submitted a resignation letter but indicated she wanted to keep working, while Blanford and Bellville "refused to swear allegiance to the Dunleavy agenda."

Bakalar says she worked for 12 years over five separate administrations as an assistant attorney general. She claims that she was fired for expressing her political views through a blog, "One Hot Mess Alaska."

"Her termination came in retaliation for expressing these views differing from Gov. Dunleavy and Mr Babock's," read the release from ACLU of Alaska.

Bellville says he was unable to fulfill the resignation request as he could not put "Tuckerman Babcock's political views ahead of my patients."

The lawsuits say their removals violate free speech rights and the policy that state employment be governed by merit.

Decker said the ACLU of Alaska was looking to have the three employees reinstated but also to make a "clear, unambiguous statement" to Gov. Dunleavy and future administrations.

“It is the State’s policy not to comment on pending litigation, and this case involves personnel matters, which are confidential," read a statement released by Cori Mills, a spokesperson for the Department of Law. "The State of Alaska will review the complaint and file its response with the court, at which time we can provide a copy of the court filing.”

Decker said at Friday's press conference that the ACLU of Alaska expects a response from the state sometime next month.