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No need for Donley to resign from school board

  • Author: Mark K. Johnson
    | Opinion
  • Updated: February 26, 2019
  • Published February 24, 2019

Anchorage skyline and pan ice at Point Woronzof on Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

I was disappointed to see Suzanne Little’s commentary in which she called for the resignation of Dave Donley from the Anchorage School Board.

Her concerns about possible conflicts that Mr. Donley might have as a result of his selection to serve in the Department of Administration in the Dunleavy administration are largely imaginary. Contrary to her suggestion, the role of the department in the affairs of the Anchorage School District is quite limited: DOA has nothing to do with the school district budget or how ASD selects or retains personnel; DOA does not control how the School District runs school buildings nor with whom the district contracts.

Ms. Little seeks to preemptively impugn Dave’s integrity by suggesting that conflicts of interests could arise and points to state retirement and benefits programs and even the Alaska Public Offices Commission. With regard to the retirement programs, those programs are tightly controlled by statute and are managed by a nine-member board, the Alaska Retirement Management Board. APOC is governed by a separate board. Neither of these boards are directly controlled by the Commissioner of Administration or her employee, Mr. Donley.

Ms. Little makes much of the fact that Mr. Donley is serving in state government in a “executive-level” position. In this position, he has no specific statutory responsibilities. Whatever Dave does on behalf of state government is derivative of the authority of and at the direction of the commissioner. In that regard, his role with state government is on much that same footing as that of Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar, who also works for the state.

Mechanisms exist under the current standards of conduct for Mr. Donley to declare any conflicts that he may have before taking action on any matter to come before the school board. I am confident that he will adhere to those rules. This is the same process that Ms. Little was required to follow when she served as a Democratic member of the State Senate from 1993 through 1994.

Alaska is not a large state in terms of population, and we have a rich history of participation by state employees in local government. Rules and safeguards exist to protect the public. Membership on the Anchorage School Board should be determined by the voters, not by other means.

Clarification: Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar serves part-time in the Alaska Army National Guard; although the Guard operates under the auspices of the Alaska governor, his position is not paid for with state funds.

Mark K. Johnson is an attorney in private practice. From 2003 to 2009, he served as a member of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.

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