A former state attorney has sued Gov. Mike Dunleavy, his former chief of staff, and the state of Alaska, alleging that she was improperly fired during the transition process as Dunleavy entered office.
Kelly Parker, who worked as an assistant public advocate for two years between 2016 and 2018, is the fourth former state employee to file such a lawsuit.
The suit, filed Oct. 9 in Anchorage District Court, claims Parker was given only 33 minutes’ notice to clear out her desk after declaring on Nov. 30, 2018, that she would not submit a resignation letter to the governor’s transition team upon their request. The transition team issued 1,200 such requests, and at the time, Dunleavy Chief of Staff Tuckerman Babcock said the letters were intended to send “out the message, ‘Do you want to work on this agenda, do you want to work in this administration? Just let us know.’”
Parker said at the time that she believed the resignation letter would “appear to require a pledge of loyalty from me in order to retain my position."
Because her position as a public advocate required her to defend clients against state prosecution, she said such a pledge would “create a substantial ongoing conflict of interest,” and she declined to sign the letter.
At 11:27 a.m. Dec. 3, she received a message saying she would be fired at noon that day.
Parker’s suit follows three others along similar lines. Elizabeth “Libby” Bakalar, a senior assistant attorney general, has filed a suit in federal court with the assistance of the Alaska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Two former doctors from the Alaska Psychiatric Institute have also filed suits with ACLU assistance.
Stephen Koteff, legal director for the ACLU, said Parker’s case appears similar to the one filed by the two doctors, who also refused to submit a letter.
“State employment is supposed to be based on merit … and when the merit system is abused and treated as a system of spoils, then it perverts our democratic form of government,” Koteff said.
Parker is being represented by Susan Orlansky of Reeves Amodio in Anchorage and James Davis of the Northern Justice Project. Orlansky was on vacation Tuesday and deferred comment to Davis, who did not immediately respond to an email and phone calls.
Unlike the ACLU cases, Parker’s suit makes no arguments based on federal law, which means it will advance through the state court system.
Asked about the suit, the governor’s office deferred questions to the Alaska Department of Law, which declined to comment.
In the ACLU cases, the governor, state and Babcock are being defended by Anchorage’s Lane Powell law firm, which has been hired on a pair of $50,000 contracts. Senior Assistant Attorney General Cori Mills said that firm will also provide the defense in this new case.
The suit has been assigned to Judge Josie Garton. No date has been set for an initial hearing.