By David Nees
February 20, 2015
In his first term as Senator, the young Jay Hammond sought a way to protect Education and Fish and Game commissioners from political cleansing by the then new Republican administration. Sen. Hammond devised and passed a clever way to balance the system: An appointed board for fish management, another appointed board for game management, and an appointed Board of Education. The governor could not have more than four persons from his party on any of the boards.
These board members were to be selected from the four Alaska judicial districts and be knowledgeable in the field.
Under this regulation, the education board took nominees from professional organizations. After interviewing candidates, three nominees were sent to the Governor for selection. The Governor picked a nominee, whom the Legislators would then vet and confirm or reject. This system is very similar to the way Supreme court Justices are selected at the national level; it assures a clear system of checks and balances.
Hammond also limited the term of the Commissioner of Education to five years.
Fast-forward to 2010: Governor Parnell, unhappy with the incumbent Commissioner of Education selected by previous Governor Palin, asked for that person’s resignation and received it. Then, at the December 3, 2010 Board of Education meeting Gov. Parnell--not the Board--put forward one candidate only.
This violated the first control Hammond’s legislation had put in place.
During that meeting State board member, Esther Cox and others objected to this maneuver, but the nomination was put forward anyway. Ultimately that person was approved by the Board. Gov. Parnell and the Legislators were offered exactly one candidate to choose from.
The Legislature, ignoring its duty to be the second control, confirmed the Governor’s illegally chosen candidate, who happens to still be commissioner of education, Mike Hanley.
Fast forward again to November 2014: Commissioner Hanley submits his resignation letter to new Governor Walker, who rejects the resignation, appointing him acting commissioner. Gov. Walker also reappoints Ester Cox as Anchorage representative to the Board of Education.
Sen. Hammond, who later became Governor, must be really spinning now. Gov. Walker has reappointed a commissioner, who was first appointed in a questionable process, and if reconfirmed Commissioner Hanley’s term will extend from 2010-2018--three years longer than the term limit Jay Hammond initially envisioned.
So much for checks and balances. The Alaska Legislature must reject rubber-stamping Commissioner Hanley and request the Governor and Board of Education follow established rules.
Make Jay proud.
Received February 12, 2015 - Published February 20, 2015
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