ACLU of Alaska vindicates First Amendment rights of non-unionized state workers.
The ACLU of Alaska and the State of Alaska finalized a settlement in Blanford and Bellville v. Dunleavy on Wednesday. <[link removed]> The settlement resolves a lawsuit after a federal district court ruled in October that the Dunleavy Administration violated the First Amendment rights of two former Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API) doctors who refused to write pledges of loyalty to the administration.
Dr. Anthony Blanford will receive a lump sum of $220,000 and Dr. John Bellville will receive $275,000 for damages, lost wages, and attorney's fees.
Wednesday's settlement marks the end of a years-long battle to defend the First Amendment rights of non-unionized state employees, who were subject to unprecedented demands by the Dunleavy Administration immediately after it took over state leadership in 2018. Exempt and partially exempt employees, including the doctors represented in this case, were told to provide a written pledge of loyalty to Governor Dunleavy's political agenda and were told if they didn't, they'd be terminated.
Neither doctor provided a pledge, as it would have been an ethical violation to put politics before the health of their patients. As such, they were wrongfully terminated.
The settlement includes a pledge from the Governor and the State of Alaska to refrain from using people's political affiliation as a litmus test for employment decisions.
"We hope that this settlement allows state employee to breathe a little easier knowing the behaviors the governor and his chief of staff engaged in are off limits for all non-policymaking employees," said Legal Director Stephen Koteff. "The court clearly concluded that they violated our clients' rights, and this settlement extends the same legal protections to the rest of the State workforce as well."
The State of Alaska must promptly seek a legislative appropriation to satisfy the settlement.