Alaska News

Board suspends human rights commission director over rifle sticker complaint

The executive director of the Alaska human rights commission has been suspended for 15 working days without pay for complaining on social media about a "Black Rifles Matter" sticker she believed to be racist on a vehicle in the commission's Anchorage parking lot.

Commission members voted 5-2 Friday to suspend Marti Buscaglia, effective Monday. She must send an apology letter to the truck's owner, Brent Linegar, after the commission chairman, Brandon Nakasato, approves the wording.

Buscaglia, a former newspaper publisher in Alaska and Minnesota, declined comment in an email to The Associated Press.

In a Facebook message to The Associated Press, Linegar called her suspension "a slap on the wrist."

Last month, Buscaglia saw the sticker on Linegar's vehicle and posted a photo of it on the commission's Facebook page asking, "In what world is this OK?"

Linegar, who has a plumbing and heating business, has said the truck was his and that his company was doing repairs at the building that day. He has said that he understood the stickers to be about gun safety and "Second Amendment awareness."

In his statement to the AP, Linegar said Buscaglia should never have made those comments on social media. "If she wanted to simply have a conversation with me, then a note to that effect could have been left on my windshield. Instead, she saw fit to write a different type of note, put my truck on Facebook on the State page ...," he said.


Commission members David Barton and Marcus Sanders voted against the sanctions. Sanders said after the meeting that he didn't feel the punishment was severe enough and that the head of the human rights commission should set an example.

"I wanted the max," he said, adding he would have voted for her termination.

Nakasato said the board considered various options, but he declined to elaborate. The meeting, which started Monday and was continued until Friday, included about five hours of closed door sessions.

Buscaglia said she removed the post amid strong reactions, writing on Facebook that the post offended many gun owners who interpreted it as the commission being against the right to own guns, which she said was not the case.

"Our concern was with the connotation of the statement to the Black Lives Matter movement," the new post read.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy asked for an investigation, which was conducted by his office, the Department of Law and the Department of Administration's division of personnel and labor relations. The investigation was completed and the basis for the board's closed-door session.

Commission members also suspended use of the commission’s official Facebook page until the agency comes up with a plan to comply with the executive branch’s social media policy.

Mark Thiessen, Associated Press

Mark Thiessen is a reporter for the Associated Press based in Anchorage.