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Nome Resident Removed From State Human Rights Commission Without Much Explanation

Portrait of woman wearing glasses, grey sweater and black top

Three members of the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights, including a Nome-ite, have been abruptly removed from their positions with several months left in their five-year terms. 

Governor Mike Dunleavy’s office announced three new commissioners had been appointed on May 28. Yet Megan Mackiernan, the former Chair of the commission, says she wasn’t notified of her removal until May 30. She described the phone call from the Office of Boards and Commissions informing her of such as “out of the blue.”

According to Matt Shuckerow, a spokesperson for the Governor, Mackiernan and two other commissioners were asked to step aside due to their handling of a controversial incident regarding the executive director of the commission and a bumper sticker on a truck in a state parking lot. In early April, Marti Buscaglia, the executive director, was suspended by the commission for 15 days without pay and was asked to write an apology to the car owner.

Mackiernan says she thought the issue was resolved and the commission could move forward after Buscaglia resigned, along with the Commission Chair and Vice Chair, more than a month ago.

Following the bumper sticker incident, the Commission for Human Rights voted Mackiernan to be the new Chair on May 1. The Nome resident says she was grateful to hold that position, even if just for a short time.

“It was my great honor to have been appointed to the commission, to have been elected Chair, and to serve the people of Alaska in our mission of upholding the human rights of all Alaskans.”

By the end of May, Mackiernan had lost her role on the commission, along with Christa Bruce-Kotrc and Kathryn Dodge. According to Mackiernan, all three women voted the same way on the decision to suspend Buscaglia back in April. 

After Buscaglia was suspended, some legislators publicly criticized the ruling, saying the commission didn’t go far enough to address her abuse of power.

Mackiernan says the three former commissioners were all notified of their removal with a phone call and a letter from the Governor’s office on May 30, two days after new commissioners had already been appointed.

According to Alaska Statue 18.80, the Commission for Human Rights is under the purview of the Governor, but members still need to be approved by the Legislature. The state law lists no details on the process for removing commissioners.

Shuckerow maintains Mackiernan and the other two commissioners were asked to step down from their positions.

Image at top: Megan Mackiernan, Norton Sound Health Corporation. Photo courtesy of NSHC.

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