Leader of state employees' union suspended by board

Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2002

ANCHORAGE - Saying he had engaged in "conduct imminently dangerous to the welfare of the local," the executive board of ASEA-AFSCME Local 52, one of Alaska's largest state employee unions, has suspended its president.

The suspension of Ernest F. Thomas came at an emergency meeting of the board of the Alaska State Employees Association on Saturday.

Thomas said his suspension is part of an effort to force him out of office by some board members and the business manager because he has been critical of some of their actions.

Thomas and the executive board have been feuding for most of his nearly two years as president. The union represents about 7,500 state employees in 14 state departments, in positions ranging from clerks to psychiatric nurses to wildlife biologists, said Chuck O'Connell, business manager.

The union president has power to authorize expenditures and chairs the policy-making board, made up of union members.

O'Connell said he didn't want to detail problems with Thomas. "Suffice it to say, it's been difficult."

Among other charges, the union said Thomas:

• Helped someone who was suing the union for $700,000, a lawsuit that was later dismissed for lack of evidence, according to the union.

• Sent an e-mail to 185 people inaccurately alleging problems with the union's health trust, costing the trust $11,129 to respond.

• Refused or delayed the signing of checks, costing more than $1,000 in late fees.

Board members said they have called on their affiliate, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to investigate.

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