Director of Human Rights Commission suspended after social media, free speech controversy

A note left on the windshield of this truck by Human Rights Commission director Marti Buscaglia. (KTUU)

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Executive Director of the Alaska Human Rights Commission will be suspended 15 working days without pay, the commission announced Friday afternoon, after a lengthy executive session that took part of two days to complete.

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After finishing its executive session meeting Friday, the commission announced that in addition to the suspension, Marti Buscaglia will write a letter of apology. The commission voted 5-2 on the action. One of the commissioners said he voted against the action because he thought it was not strong enough.

Buscaglia came under fire after leaving her business card with a note about an “offensive sticker” on a truck parked in a lot outside the state building. The sticker shows a tactical rifle and the phrase “Black Rifles Matter.” Buscaglia and another state employee left their business cards, and soon after the Alaska Human Rights Commission posted a photo of the sticker on its Facebook page, asking “In what world is this OK?”

At Friday’s meeting, the commission also voted that it would not use its official Facebook Page until it has a plan in line with the executive branch’s social media policy.

The truck belongs to Brent Linegar, a contractor who was working on the building at the time, and he soon took to social media himself, defending his business. He says he was going to let the note slide, until he saw the photo of his truck on Facebook, and heard that the owner of the building had been contacted, and had been asked not to work with him because of the sticker.

In response to Friday's decision, Linegar expressed disappointed with the ruling.

"The Governor was elected to do many things, and one of those things was to get rid of this type of abuse of position and to stop this type of behavior," Linegar said in part. "The only way to stop people like this is to get them out of these positions where they can willingly damage others, while pushing their personal agendas and purposefully operate outside of their job scope and directive."

On Friday afternoon, House Minority Leader Rep. Lance Pruitt. R-Anchorage, issued a statement expressing disappointment at the vote to retain Buscaglia.

“To say that we have concerns with a government official using his or her position to intentionally suppress the constitutional rights of a citizen, multiple times, would be an understatement,” Pruitt's statement said in part. “If this really did happen the way that it was reported by the media to have happened, and we find out about it in the course of our investigation, I can guarantee you that the Commission will be held accountable for allowing this sort of person to remain in power.”

Channel 2's Grant Robinson and Daniel Kirby contributed to this report.



 
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