Good reasons why law provides waivers

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, April 06, 2005

On March 22, the Empire reprinted an editorial from the Anchorage Daily News headed "Revolving door law for state workers too lax." It was replete with phrases like "high-ranking state officials have taken fast, lucrative spins through the revolving door between government and the private sector" and "stunning spin through the revolving door loophole" and "ethically dubious back-scratching." I'm named as having received a "generous waiver."

The editorial clearly implied that I got special treatment and that I'd used state service for improper financial gain. That's not true, and I'm angry at having my reputation smeared.

Yes, I suggested a grant to the university, and, yes, I was later recruited to do work funded by the grant. That grant was one of more than 300 I dealt with in one way or another while working on the state's Fisheries Revitalization Strategy. I was a Range 18 at the time, and didn't make the final decision approving the grant.

If anyone thinks I got special treatment from the Murkowski administration, they should know I'm a registered Democrat and donated a "visible amount" to Fran Ulmer's campaign. I wasn't in line for any politically motivated favors.

Why was a waiver required, and why was my request granted? You don't need one if you transfer to another department or become an employee of a municipality or the university. However, because of the limited the duration of the grant, I'm on contract. I'm not a permanent, full-time employee. On that narrow difference, I needed a waiver. After review by my department and attorneys at the Department of Law, my work with the university was found to be "not adverse to the public interest." The editorial made no note of that, nor did the report by Greg Erickson of Alaska Budget Report on which it was based. Neither Erickson nor the News editorial staff bothered to contact me before going to print, nor did the Empire do any verification.

Contrary to the News' simplistic assertions, there are good reasons why the law provides for waivers. Can they be abused? Sure. That's true of anything requiring judgment. But that doesn't mean that everyone who's gotten a waiver is guilty of improper behavior. It is actual abuse that should be reported. But, that requires good news work, not some thinly researched opinion screed. I deserve an apology, but I'm not holding my breath.

Greg Fisk


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