Based on the texts and calls which Randy and I have received, the speed of light has nothing on the speed of information in Corrections. So, as many or most of you have already heard, Association President Randy McLellan got his stripes back, is being made whole for the wages and benefits lost due to the demotion, is being made whole for a separate 96-hour suspension which has been overturned, and his court case has been resolved. This universal settlement was reached just days before the demotion arbitration was set to begin.
We could not send out the news of the settlement immediately because of a few outstanding issues, which were resolved when Randy was officially transferred to Hiland Mountain as part of the settlement. We appreciated your patience as we confirmed that Randy really does have his life back. The settlement is huge for many reasons, but mostly for Randy and his family.
We must always use caution when we put someone in front of the news media. Even one mistake by the person speaking can be costly. Randy has the intelligence to always remain calm and state the facts in a professional manner… and in 6 years, no gaffes. So, when issues surrounding staffing, MRSA and later the no confidence vote came up early in the Schmidt administration, we turned to Randy to get out the membership’s story. Randy did a fantastic job of standing up for the membership. However, as a result, Management has continuously done their best to knock him down. In their efforts, Management did not just attack Randy, but attacked everyone around him as well.
It became an ongoing joke, “Don’t stand close to Randy because he has a target on his back and, if they miss him they might hit you.” Unfortunately, that joke did not seem so farfetched when Randy and his shift was intentionally pepper sprayed by Management under the guise of “training”. It has been a rough six years since Randy first talked to the press but this last year has been particularly brutal, especially financially, for Randy and his family. There are a lot of benefits in the universal settlement, including benefits for the membership as a whole, but the best part is that he has now been completely vindicated.
One aspect of the universal agreement includes the reversal of two vindictive and unfounded disciplines imposed on Randy.
- One was an 84-hour suspension for allegedly not picking up the distro in one of seven mods. Randy had heard that Management had spent an entire week looking through a month’s worth of video recordings in the hope of finding something to discipline him for. The result was the missed distro pick-up allegation. When called into the Superintendent’s office about the alleged missed distro, Randy realized that the report of video-watching was true. He told Management that its actions were “pathetic”, a remark which led to another sanction – an additional 12 hours off, raising his original 84-hour suspension to 96 hours. As mentioned earlier, this discipline has been completely reversed and Randy will be made whole financially.
- The second discipline, the one that most of you are familiar with, involved the spraying of a combative inmate. This inmate had nearly beaten his father to death and was violent with the remanding Trooper. The door to the cell in which he was placed was one that opened out and had to be keyed to be locked after it was closed. The inmate prevented the Officers from closing the door by kicking it back into the Officer who was trying to lock it. On the third kick, Randy OC’d the inmate to keep him away from the cell door so that it could be locked. It was as routine and normal a spraying as any in the DOC, but Management used it as grounds for walking him out of his institution like a criminal and then demoting him. Now, as part of the settlement, Randy will be made whole for the pay and benefits he lost, along with getting his stripes back.
OC is a tool intended to be used to allow Officers to protect one another without unnecessary injuries to themselves or inmates, so everyone involved gets to go home to their families at the end of the day. By unjustly attacking Randy for using OC when its use was appropriate and necessary, Management sent a dangerous message which could cause others to hesitate and result in someone being unnecessarily injured. Officers, are required to make split second decisions in threatening situations and it is wrong for Management to cause them to delay. Officers need to be free to protect themselves and their fellow Officers against violent inmates without having to worry about being disciplined for routine OC incidents. Management cannot be allowed to contrive disciplinary situations to unjustly go after anyone who has spoken up for the rights of Association members. Unfortunately, the current Management continues to retaliate against Officers that speak up, and Randy was just their most visible and constant target.
Over 30 current and past Officers were on the Association’s witness list to testify at Randy’s arbitration, and another 25 Officers were available as rebuttal witnesses if needed. All who had not yet retired knew that testifying might put them on the DOC’s “target list”. That so many were willing to stand up for Randy and for the rights of all Correctional Officers in spite of the risk says much about the character and integrity of Alaska’s Correctional Officers. Without Officers willing to testify, this universal settlement would not have been possible. Because others were willing to stand up for Randy, no Officers will again be re-sprayed with OC and everybody will be safer in the institutions when Officers do not hesitate to use OC. The result in Randy’s case is a tremendous accomplishment that belongs to the entire membership.
So, on behalf of Randy and his family, thank you again for all your support. This truly is a victory for all Correctional Officers.