This email was sent on January 28,2014.
By now most of you know that Management demoted ACOA President Randy McLellan, and then singled him and the members of his shift out to be assaulted with OC. His demotion and the OC assault on his shift are only two recent events in Management’s five year retaliatory vendetta against Randy in response to his speaking out on health, safety, and contractual issues for Correctional Officers. In several instances, Management went after members of Randy’s shift, as well. Management knows they can “get” to Randy by hurting those Officers who work with and support him.
New Officers may not know a great deal about what Randy, acting and speaking as ACOA’s spokesperson and President, has done for Correctional Officers over the years. Officers now enjoy many gains that came at a price to those who fought hard for those benefits and fair treatment.
Randy has never cowered from standing up for his fellow Officers and, as a member of our negotiating teams, he has fought hard to advance the rights and benefits that Correctional Officers receive today. A decreasing number of Officers are around who can remember when Correctional Officer contracts did not treat them as members of the law enforcement community. It has been a long haul, but with Randy’s leadership, and the leadership of other courageous and dedicated Board members, including past President Danny Colang, we have reached where we are today.
For those gains, Randy and his family have paid an equally high price both with his stripes and his income. They cannot hurt the Association, although they have tried, so they turn on Randy and members of his shift. Management has been hurting Officers for some time, but it is now clear that they are now willing to take it to a whole new level.
Personal Attacks – When the Schmidt Administration came into office, they took actions that no one could comprehend. Because Randy is articulate, knowledgeable, and was highly respected by both Management and Correctional Officers, he was asked to speak to the press on issues such as inmate overcrowding, reductions in shift staffing minimums, MRSA, and Officer Safety. Randy’s public comments resulted in the Commissioner having to answer questions during “out of session” Legislative Committee meetings that ended with Legislators calling for a Legislative audit of the DOC. The hearings were a disaster for the Commissioner and among other things he was publically chastised for his personal attacks on his own Officers.
“I have never, never heard a Commissioner speak so disparagingly of the people who work for him. It is hurtful to morale.”
– Republican Representative Jay Ramras
Prior to this chastisement, the Commissioner had gone on a public campaign against all Correctional Officers, implying they were corrupt and he was cleaning up the Department. He also attacked Randy personally, calling him a liar by name in the press. This was followed by a string of investigations on Randy for the most trivial of issues. Attached is a letter sent to the Governor on one of the DOC’s malicious attempts to harass and terminate Randy, this one dealing with his handling of a remand. As you can imagine, 5 years of Randy being constantly harassed and investigated by DOC Management has made it tough on him and his family.
Demotion – The most recent of these investigations centered on a routine OCing of an out-of-control and violent remand. The OC was used exactly for the purpose it was designed for. It was used against a formidable and angry remand to prevent possible injury to the inmate and to the Officers involved. Randy’s use of OC was text-book and its use resulted in the combative remand being controlled and the entire shift being able to walk away without injury. Management knew they could not justify terminating Randy for this incident, so they took a chance and demoted him instead. Attached is the grievance filed against Randy’s demotion; please take the time to read it carefully. As with the remand incident mentioned prior, Management was so focused on “getting” Randy, they did not think about how their actions might affect other Officers’ actions. The safety of others is compromised if anyone, out of concern for being similarly disciplined, hesitates or chooses not to use OC when it is needed.
Continuous Retaliation – This was no random investigation. The OC event for which Randy was disciplined occurred on March 2, 2013. Randy did not receive a hearing notice until April 24th, almost two months after the actual event, but only 4 days after the Arbitrator announced her decision on the 8’s. Losing the 8’s arbitration was a major setback for DOC Management and they have been in retaliation mode ever since. After hearing about the loss, they also moved forward with an attempt to take Sergeants out of the ACOA Bargaining Unit by creating new Lieutenant Shift Commander Positions (an Unfair Labor Practice has been filed), attacked Correctional Officers’ annual leave policy, conducted a record number of disciplinary hearings, and further lowered shift minimums at several institutions. These actions, and others against Correctional Officers, led to a total of 72 disciplinary and/or non-retention hearings, 33 grievances and/or Complaints in 2013 and 19 scheduled arbitrations in 2014. No membership, especially one the size of ours, deserves to be put through this in a single year.
The Spraying/Assault – Several months after Randy was demoted, Management ordered Randy and his entire shift to be OC’d. Though in the past there have been many issues/incidents with OC, no Officer in the history of the Alaska DOC has ever been ordered to be re-sprayed for any reason. National experts do not know of any Officer ever being ordered to be re-sprayed after their initial certification course anywhere in the United States or anywhere else for that matter, except for someone being trained to be an OC instructor. Attached is a letter from Steven Jimerfield, a retired Alaska State Trooper, former Instructor at the Public Safety Training Academy in Sitka, and Alaska Court certified Use of Force expert.
The spraying of Randy’s shift was not part of some new training procedure implemented by Upper Management that everyone has to follow (which would be wrong on its own); these individuals were specifically selected for punishment for political reasons. In reality, Randy and his shift were assaulted because he stood up to Management and they had no choice but to stand there as ordered and take it under the implied threat of termination.
Blame Me – Management spent the past five years trying to divide Correctional Officers without success. Do not give them any satisfaction now. The only individuals responsible for this cowardly act are Upper Management. Randy and his shift could not afford to refuse to be sprayed any more than those who conducted the training could afford to refuse the order to have them sprayed. If you think the Commissioner would not fire someone for refusing an order simply to harm them until the termination is overturned in arbitration, you are wrong. Here is what Commissioner Schmidt said to the press about all the terminations that were overturned in arbitration early in his administration.
“…, and you know my take on that [having his terminations over turned] and what I tell my folks, it’s easy to get frustrated when you lose. I tell them, look, we’re gonna fill that position with somebody. It’s either gonna be a rookie who’s doing right or it’s going to be a veteran person that we now have the attention of, and that’s fine. And when they come back you know, they’ve got experience as long as you’re behaving and doing what they’re supposed to do, we’re good.”
No Officer can afford to sacrifice his or her job by refusing a direct order from Management. If anyone wants to blame someone other than Upper Management, then blame me; I instructed everyone I talked with to do as ordered. Everyone needs to be smart, think things through and have empathy for all those involved. Please support all the Officers that Upper Management put into this horrendous situation.
Chief of Staff’s Letter – Attached is a letter ACOA sent to the Governor. An investigation was conducted and on December 11, 2013 the Governor’s Chief of Staff responded with this letter to ACOA. We believe they have dug themselves into an even deeper hole by trying to cover the incident up as “training”. The Chief of Staff’s letter has many inaccuracies and inconsistencies. The letter states that everyone was treated the same during this “training” when from beginning to end they absolutely were not. One of the many examples that Randy’s shift was not treated the same was the treatment during the classroom part of the training. Randy’s shift was in attendance but not allowed to take notes or take the test.
The Governor’s Chief of Staff goes on to mention that the “… training in this instance could have been handled differently.”, and then questions Randy’s actions while being “trained”. First, it was not training, it was an assault. Second, the “assault”, the “… training in this instance…” as the Chief of Staff calls it, was “handled” exactly as ordered by Upper Management. And third, how is someone supposed to act while being assaulted? How is someone supposed to act while his shift and close friends are being assaulted in front of him for political reasons as the Director and Deputy Director stand by watching, joking, and laughing?
The Governor’s Chief of Staff’s letter is a not so veiled threat to go after all the Officers involved if we pursue this issue against the Commissioner. Well, Correctional Officers know how to deal with threats; they deal with them every day on the job. Correctional Officers do not back off or back down and are not going to start now.
This Has Got To End – The spraying of Officers is just the latest incident in a vicious cycle involving DOC Management that started when they came into office in 2006. Their actions and decisions have been detrimental to the Department and Officers from day one.
With the Schmidt Administration, it is always the same, they make a poorly conceived and bad decision, then when Officers call them on their bad decision they get mad and retaliate. It needs to stop.
This is not how any Department in any State should operate, especially a correctional department where lives are on the line 24/7. Public safety, Officer safety, and inmate safety, require effective leadership. Help where you can, do what you can, and continue to support each other.
On behalf of the ACOA’s Board of Directors,