Union manager Duncan cleared on ethics complaint

Ex-commissioner not involved in contract talks before job change

Posted: Friday, December 12, 2003

Union business manager Jim Duncan, former commissioner of the Department of Administration, will not face disciplinary action related to an ethics complaint filed against him, according to the state Department of Law.

Donn Liston, a former business agent for Alaska State Employees Association, filed the complaint. He argues Duncan violated the ethics act by negotiating collective bargaining agreements for the state from 1999 to 2002, and then taking a job with ASEA, the state's largest public employee union.

The Department of Law, in September, issued a list of stipulations Duncan was required to sign, ensuring there would be no violations of the Executive Branch Ethics Act, said Lisa Kirsch, an assistant attorney general.

Duncan directed all press inquiries to his attorney Charles Dunnagan.

"Jim Duncan didn't do anything wrong," Dunnagan said.

He said Duncan took steps before the complaint was filed to prevent conflicts of interest, such as promising not to lobby the Legislature for one year.

But Liston said the law encapsulates Duncan's job duties as union business manager, adding he believes the ASEA Board of Directors also is culpable for hiring Duncan.

"How can he have any punch if they say he can't do any of the things that his job requires?" Liston said.

As business manager, Duncan is charged with advocating for increases in employees' wages and benefits during negotiations on union contracts.

He left his position as commissioner Dec. 1, 2002, following the election of Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski. On Feb. 12, 2003, Duncan was hired by ASEA.

Liston, fired by the union in 2000, filed the complaint a few days later.

The ethics act states former commissioners may not lobby the Legislature for up to one year after leaving government. And for two years they may not "represent, advise, or assist a person for compensation regarding a matter that was under consideration by the administrative unit served by that public officer, and in which the officer participated personally and substantially through the exercise of official action."

A review by the Department of Law revealed that while serving as commissioner he was not involved in negotiations over the current union contracts. Talks on those contracts began shortly after Duncan resigned as commissioner last December.

Assistant Attorney General Kirsch said due to a confidentiality law the Department of Law can neither confirm nor deny whether Duncan acted in violation of the Executive Branch Ethics Act or whether an investigation took place.

"The stipulation speaks for itself," said Kirsch, who approved the agreement.

The state's stipulation says Duncan must recuse himself from any matter pending while he served as commissioner and precludes him from using information acquired in his official duties as commissioner without receiving approval from the state. It also permits Duncan to participate on the 2003-2004 collective bargaining negotiations.

The final section of the stipulation states: "This stipulation fully resolves the presently pending ethics complaint. Nothing in this stipulation is an admission by Mr. Duncan of liability or wrongdoing with regard to any conduct by Mr. Duncan before the date of this stipulation."

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