State settles for $85K in retaliation case

Keren Lowell was barred from her job after criticizing Dunleavy’s proposed budget cuts, according to lawsuit.

The State of Alaska has agreed to pay a former employee an $85,000 settlement in a retaliation case, according to a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Keren Lowell was barred from her job with the Alaska State Council on the Arts after posting on social media in opposition of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget cuts in the summer of 2019, the release stated.

“Ms. Lowell became a target in the Dunleavy Administration’s brazen crusade against Alaska’s dedicated public servants,” said ACLU of Alaska Legal Director Stephen Koteff in the release. “While today’s settlement is a victory, there is truly no adequate remedy for the intolerable attacks by Alaska’s government on its own people.”

Lowell had worked for the council for eight years before Dunleavy voted to defund it on June 28, 2019, resulting in an immediate mass layoff of all personnel. But after public outcry in opposition of the cuts, Dunleavy reversed course, according to the ACLU release.

“Most employees were allowed to return to work, but Lowell was not rehired,” the release stated. “In an email to Lowell, a state official told Lowell that her rehire was unauthorized because she had publicly criticized Dunleavy while she was laid off.”

In December 2019, the ACLU of Alaska sent a letter to Dunleavy stating the agency’s intent to sue for retaliation, and had been in negotiations with the state since. According to the release, on April 13 the state settled and agreed to pay Lowell $85,000 for lost wages and other damages.

“Using my voice is my First Amendment right, as guaranteed by the Alaska and US Constitutions,” Lowell said in the release. “I would never have imagined that any administration would target and punish me for exercising this right. Settling this is a big victory, and my hope is that it helps cease this sort of retaliatory behavior from our government in the future.”

Reach reporter Camille Botello at

More in News

Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank, left, and Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander present during a budget work session on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Flat mill rate, sales tax included in Kenai budget proposal

The budget proposal is subject to final approval by the Kenai City Council

Senate effectively kills restrictive transgender sports bill

Bipartisan group of senators votes to table controversial bill

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, chair of the bicameral conference committee tasked with hammering out differences in the state’s budget bill, signs the committee report as members finished their work on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Committee compromises on PFD in budget plan

Members of the conference committee agreed Tuesday to a payment of about $3,800

Graduates laugh during teacher Jesse Bjorkman’s 2022 commencement address at Nikiski Middle/High School on Monday, May 16, 2022 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Nikiski Middle/High School graduates 31 students

The commencement ceremony was held Monday in the school gym

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Members of the Alaska House of Representatives on Saturday rejected the budget bill passed by the Senate earlier in the week. The bill will now go to a bicameral committee for negotiations, but the end of the legislative session is Wednesday.
House votes down Senate’s budget as end of session nears

State budget now goes to negotiating committee

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Candidate for Alaska’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives Tara Sweeney, a Republican, was in Juneau on Monday and sat down with the Empire for an interview. Sweeney said the three main pillars of her campaign are the economy, jobs and healthy communities.
Sweeney cites experience in run for Congress

GOP candidate touts her history of government-related work

One tree stands in front of the Kenai Post Office on Thursday, May 12, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai taking down hazard beetle trees

The city hopes to leverage grant funds for most of the work

Former Alaska governor and current congressional hopeful Sarah Palin speaks with attendees at a meet-and-greet event outside of Ginger’s Restaurant on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Palin brings congressional bid to Soldotna

The former governor took time Saturday to sign autographs and take pictures with attendees

Most Read