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Alaska will pay $75,000 to settle wrongful-firing lawsuit prompted by Dunleavy administration’s 2018 request for resignation letters

JUNEAU — The state of Alaska will pay $75,000 to a former state attorney and public advocate who sued the state, alleging that she was wrongfully fired in 2018 during the transition from Gov. Bill Walker to Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Under the terms of a settlement agreement signed April 22, Kelly Parker will end her lawsuit and drop all claims in exchange for the payment. The state does not admit fault.

Parker’s case was one of three filed after the Dunleavy administration asked all at-will employees to submit resignation letters and reapply for their jobs. The two remaining lawsuits are advancing in federal court and have not been resolved.

Parker, hired to represent poor Alaskans in lawsuits, said in her lawsuit that the process amounted to a loyalty pledge to the new administration, and that “she could not ethically pledge loyalty to the governor who, as head of the state, brings the cases against her clients.”

In court filings, attorneys from the Department of Law disputed Parker’s description and the administration said at the time of the resignation letters that it was following a procedure performed by prior governors.

Through attorney Susan Orlansky, Parker declined to be interviewed but issued a written statement that said she brought the case because she believes the state should not be able to act in such a way that it decides who represents clients on both sides of court cases.

“As the litigation progressed, Kelly and her lawyers concluded that this goal most likely would not be accomplished through litigation, but would best be achieved through a legislative change in the (Office of Public Advocacy) statute,” the statement said.

“When the state proposed settling this case, Kelly accepted a settlement that leaves her free to pursue her primary goal legislatively, and assures her the ability to return to work at OPA if she chooses to apply there again in the future. She sees the state’s willingness to pay a significant sum as vindication that her claims have merit, notwithstanding the formal assertion that the settlement is not an admission of any wrongdoing by the state,” it said.

The Alaska Department of Law did not respond to a question asking why it settled the case.

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