Ogan claims his rights were denied

Representative battles majority on last session's proceedings

Posted: Tuesday, January 11, 2000

A procedural squabble highlighted the first meeting of the state House this session.

Rep. Scott Ogan, a Palmer Republican who split from the House GOP majority, contended majority leaders wrongly excluded him last fall from an executive session of a committee that yanked his chairmanship of the House Resources Committee. The committee also stripped choice committee spots from the three other lawmakers who left the majority during last year's special session on subsistence.

During Monday's floor session, Ogan quoted legislative rules and said he'd been denied his civil right to ``fair and just treatment.''

``If you have something to say about me, you can say it to my face,'' Ogan said. ``I'm the one who has to get up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror.

``The rules have been violated.''

Speaker of the House Brian Porter, an Anchorage Republican, is chairman of the House Committee on Committees. During the November meeting, Ogan and the other three GOP House members who left the majority - John Coghill of North Pole, Vic Kohring of Wasilla and Jerry Sanders of Anchorage - were stripped of top committee seats, though they retained some committee memberships.

Ogan said the committee's action was not improper, but the way it went about it was.

Porter said Ogan was excluded from the meeting when members went into executive session. Excluding Ogan, Coghill and Sanders, he said, was necessary because the committee discussed matters that might ``tarnish'' the reputation of the four members who quit the majority. Kohring wasn't present at the committee meeting.

A legislative rule states lawmakers shouldn't be excluded.

Porter said keeping the three out was a needed step because the ``character and personality'' of individuals was to be discussed. He pointed to the exclusion of members from the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics as a precedent for the move.

``These three legislators wanted to be present at that discussion,'' Porter said. ``We could not have discussed one person without exposing that discussion to the other two.''

Porter's ruling was approved Monday on a 27-12 vote, with a handful of Democrats voting with Ogan. Rep. Beth Kerttula, a Juneau Democrat, was among them.

She said the uniform rules read pretty clearly to her and Porter wasn't interpreting them correctly. Her procedural vote, she said, was not a vote of support for Ogan, with whom she differs philosophically and personally.

``It looked like that was the wrong ruling,'' she said. ``I don't think under our rules you have the right to exclude people like that.''

The committee changes affecting members of the GOP minority were also approved, 35-4, on Monday.

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