JUNEAU (AP) — Gov. Bill Walker said Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy’s request for resignations from a swath of state employees is “creating anxiety and uncertainty” for workers in nonpolitical roles.
Walker said in a statement that his administration “strongly advised” Dunleavy’s team against the action. It was not immediately known how many employees might be impacted by Dunleavy’s request.
Dunleavy’s transition team said Friday that it sent an email to all state employees who serve at the pleasure of the governor asking them to resign and to reapply for their positions. While incoming administrations often make leadership changes, Dunleavy’s team said it had broadened the scope of employees asked to take the step.
Dunleavy’s transition chair and chief of staff Tuckerman Babcock said in a statement that given the change in leadership, it was appropriate to ask employees if they “want to work for the Dunleavy administration.”
Dunleavy ran, in part, on reducing state spending and limiting the growth in government and being tough on crime.
“This is not necessarily the process for reducing the number of state employees,” Babcock said, adding that at-will employees serve the public and the public elects the governor.
Employees will remain on the job unless notified that their resignation was accepted, he said. They also can apply for other positions.
If an employee does not submit a resignation, “we will take that as evidence they do not wish to serve in the Dunleavy Administration.”
Babcock said he did not know how many workers were affected, calling it “a matter of principle, not numbers.”
Democratic state Sen. Tom Begich, the incoming Senate minority leader, questioned the approach, saying it creates an unstable situation for employees.
The underlying purpose of the action, he said, is “some, I think, baseless fear that there is some dark state in state government that somehow opposes any action by the governor elect.”
Begich’s brother, Democrat Mark Begich, lost to Dunleavy in this month’s election.
A Department of Law spokeswoman said by email that more than 260 of the agency’s roughly 500 employees received the Dunleavy request.
Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, in an email to Department of Law staff Saturday, said Dunleavy was within his right to make the request and asked those affected to submit their resignations.
Lindemuth said she spoke with Dunleavy and Babcock about the department and the role of her office.
She said while the governor can direct the attorney general to hire or fire Department of Law employees, such decisions are not to be made without the attorney general weighing in on the impact that would have on the department’s work.
“Please also be assured that we will have attorneys working with the new administration to make sure all employment decisions are consistent with state law,” she wrote.
She said she sensed “no animus” toward the department and would be “greatly surprised if the department looks much different than it does now” after Dunleavy takes office.
Walker said he requested the resignation of about 250 “senior political appointees” when he took office but chose to retain “many” of them and other state workers who served under his predecessor.
Dunleavy’s call for resignations “is creating anxiety and uncertainty for committed, nonpolitical public servants such as prosecutors who work tirelessly to keep our state running,” Walker said.