New hire shows that Choose Respect is falling short of the mark

As a long-time advocate for the right of women to be free from sexual harassment and abuse, I welcomed Gov. Parnell's campaign to "Choose Respect" when it began six years ago. However, for this idea to work, it must be more than public awareness through ads and rallies. It must include actions that back up the words. And I'm just not seeing that happen in the Parnell administration.

The latest comes with the hire of Jason Joel as the Alaska Marine Highway chief security officer. Mr. Joel has a checkered history of law enforcement employment. When he was with the Haines Police Department he was accused of harassing women employees. He was demoted and then separated from that employment. Of course, personnel rules don't allow disclosure of the circumstances, but the Alaska Police Standards Council (APSC) was moving forward with the revocation process of his law enforcement credentials when he voluntarily gave them up according to their public meeting minutes. They do not take this action lightly.

This is public record on the Internet, where you can find the APSC minutes and news stories. Why in the world would the Parnell administration hire a man with this type of record? Even if the hiring managers say "he meets the qualifications," they have the ability and obligation to look further at his character. Perhaps they haven't gotten the word that they are supposed to be choosing respect, which means they don't condone violence or harassment -- EVER. Instead they hire such a person into a job overseeing all AMHS vessel and facility security.

This type of disregard for the disrespectful attitudes of state employees goes hand in glove with the comments made by Alaska's Attorney General, Michael Geraghty to the House Finance Committee this year where he laid blame on women victims of violence. As far as I know, neither he nor the governor has publicly acknowledged the wrongness of those statements. And then there is the lack of Parnell response to the sexual harassment complaints at the Alaska National Guard that is beyond understanding in the context of "Choosing Respect."

The attorney general should not have put down women victims. The disrespect of National Guard female soldiers should not have happened, and Mr. Joel should not have been given the state job as AMHS security officer. Gov. Parnell's Choose Respect campaign had great promise but has instead become a great disappointment.

Chris Ashenbrenner is a lifelong Alaskan retired from a career spent working to assist needy Alaskans and survivors of violence. She is a former Executive Director for the State of Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse.