What others say: More questions than answers

  • Sunday, June 21, 2015 12:09pm
  • Opinion

Most people who threaten others with a firearm aren’t given a paid vacation. But most people also don’t work in the Alaska Senate.

It became known recently that Deborah Grundmann, a staffer to Sen. Charlie Huggins and one of the Alaska Legislature’s highest paid aides, may have been paid since her Dec. 1, 2014, arrest despite doing little, if any, actual work. According to officials in the Senate who did speak with the Empire, she wasn’t even in the state for most of last session while undergoing treatment.

The nature and frequency of Grundmann’s work over the last seven months, and how much of her $10,404 monthly salary has been collected during that time, warrants a closer level of scrutiny. Sen. Huggins, a Republican from Wasilla, has the answers but isn’t taking questions. Now it’s time the Legislative Ethics Committee takes a look into things. Something doesn’t feel right about this situation, and murmurings around the capitol confirm as much. It’s past time someone ask why and how a high-paid government official charged with felony assault with a firearm (who later pled down to a lesser misdemeanor charge) collected a paycheck that wasn’t earned.

Perhaps this is all a misunderstanding, and perhaps since Grundmann’s arrest the state hasn’t paid her a dime she didn’t earn. But Huggins, Senate President Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, and others on the Senate side are being tight-lipped about it all.

Lawmakers, especially the Senate majority, are insisting Alaska doesn’t have money to waste. We agree, which is why Grundmann’s pay should be looked into. Employees taking time off under the Family Emergency Medical Leave Act do so unpaid. And considering Grundmann’s arrest and absence was a result of her own poor decision making, it makes no sense why any of her time off would be paid. Most employers would terminate an employee for far less, so why would the Alaska Legislature have a lower standard? That especially should hold true when the employee in question earns close to what the governor makes.

The appearance of impropriety already exists, and now its up to Huggins to clear the air. Otherwise accusations and insinuations will needlessly linger until the next election. As former U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller learned in 2010, just because you stop answering questions doesn’t mean the public or media will stop asking them. Rather, people will draw their own conclusions to make up for the lack of information.

As the state continues to climb out of a budget deficit greater than any it’s seen before, who the state spends money on should be as important as what it’s spending money on.

Hundreds of law-abiding state employees will lose their jobs in July. How lawmakers spend money and on whom matters. To believe otherwise smacks of hypocrisy and belittles the performance of those receiving a pink slip in a few weeks.

The Legislative Ethics Committee must look into Grundmann’s pay and why she was kept on the books. If usual procedure wasn’t followed, the public has a right to know why public funds were misappropriated and if there’s anything scandalous in nature to be uncovered. Dodging questions, playing dumb and hiding behind privacy technicalities isn’t an answer — they only bring about more questions.

— The Juneau Empire, June 21

More in Opinion

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink promotes getting immunized with the flu shot this winter. (Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Health and Social Services)
Immunize when you winterize

An annual flu shot plus the COVID-19 vaccine protects Alaskans and our health care system, too.

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Dunleavy’s first act as governor was unconstitutional

That’s according to a ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge John Sedwick.

This Aug. 3, 2021, photo shows Juneau International Airport.  The Federal Aviation Administration shared recommendations on Thursday for improving aviation safety in the state. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: How the FAA will improve the margin of aviation safety in Alaska

Alaska depends on aviation more than any other state…

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Perspective of an educator in a ‘high-risk’ group, part 2

During some of the darkest days of my time in ICU, it was obvious where we all live is a special place.

Lawmakers havereturned to the Alaska State Capitol for a fourth special session. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Revenues should be determined before more PFD spending

The governor believes the dividend drives the entire calculation. Sadly, he has it backwards

Ronnie Leach. (Photo provided)
Point of View: For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, #weareresilient

At the onset of COVID-19, we expanded our services in a way to ensure COVID-19 consciousness.

Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion:Where’s Don Young when America needs him?

Once upon a time, avoiding political controversy was completely out of character for Young.

Peter Zuyus
Voices of the Peninsula: Seniors appreciate vaccination efforts

To those who have worked to encourage vaccination we say: Be proud, you are, in fact, saving lives.

Jackson Blackwell (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Carbon dividends are the bipartisan climate solution

By levying a gradually increasing price on carbon, U.S. emissions will be slashed by 50% in 15 years.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Dunleavy: Facts Matter

Political opportunists care more about spreading political untruths than accepting the facts.

Steve Hughes. (Photo provided)
Voices of the Peninsula: We are all victims of COVID-19

It is disturbing to hear, as a triage nurse, the many reasons cited for not getting a vaccine that are based on misinformation.

teaser
Opinion: LGBTQ+ Alaskans deserve respect and dignity

Like every state that lacks equality, we need federal protection.