Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Union attempts to influence recall with attack ad


August 10, 2017

A statewide public employee union’s “Recall Tom Morphet” Facebook post is encouraging Haines voters to recall the assembly member for a reason not listed as the grounds for recall.

Local 71 business representative Tom Brice said the advertisement is not about the grounds against Morphet in the local recall effort, but about Morphet’s breach of contract when he released complaints about Haines Police officers earlier this spring.

“The people who are running that recall, that’s up to them,” Brice said. “Our point is that Tom (Morphet) should be recalled. Their reason can be whatever that is. Our reason is that he has shown an unreasonable disregard for the rights of employees.”

Morphet said Brice is speaking “with a forked tongue” on the

purpose of the political ad and that the union is playing “lowball politics.”

“If this is about the police complaints it’s dirty dealing because those aren’t the grounds for the recall,” Morphet said. “If the union wants to see itself as a reputable organization I would think that it would play by the rules of the recall, which is I am up for recall on two grounds and neither of them is the police complaints.”

Morphet turned in complaints against Haines Police to interim borough manager Brad Ryan and asked they be investigated. Local 71 filed a grievance in April against Morphet after he released publicly those complaints because he felt the borough wasn’t addressing the issue. The union said Morphet violated the borough’s collective bargaining agreement because the complaints constituted personnel matters that are required to be kept confidential.

The Supporting League of Public Employees Local 71, a political action committee of Local 71, last week paid for and posted the ad encouraging voters to recall Morphet. The ad was seen and shared by Haines Facebook users.

Local 71 members Dennis Moen of Eagle River, Jordan Adams of Fairbanks and William Meers of Anchorage were the top contributors for the paid advertisement.

“The purpose of this campaign is to inform and continue to bring to light facts about an inappropriate action by an elected official who used their position of power to violate borough code, contract, and due process of Haines Borough Employees,” the supporting league Facebook post states. “We are not engaging in the wider recall effort regarding Tresham Gregg and Heather Lende because they did not violate the contract between Local 71 and the Haines Borough.”

A few days before it posted the campaign ad, the league’s political action committee added “Haines Special Election” to its campaign spending plans, according to an Alaska Public Offices Commission document.

“Any group that is going to spend money trying to influence elections in Alaska must register with us before they spend money,” APOC campaign disclosure coordinator Tom Lucas said. “When they register with us they register which election they’re going to participate in. They amended their registration to include the Haines election on Aug. 3.”

It’s not unusual for unions to give campaign funds or attempt to influence elections. The Local 71 PAC has spent money on advertising for state and local elections, although never before for a Haines vote.

Brice said the union has the discretion to spend money on local politics and it did not need to consult Haines Borough employees.

“When a public official violates our contract, it doesn’t come down to a popular vote of the membership,” Brice said. “It comes down to was that contract violated or not. That’s why we’ve engaged.”

The union said it would be satisfied if Morphet issued a public apology and if the Haines Borough Assembly censured him. Morphet apologized and made a motion during a borough assembly meeting last month to censure himself. Brice said Morphet’s decision to censure himself showed a lack of sincerity.

“We accepted the apology,” Brice said. “Mr. Morphet did not take the censure very seriously.”

Haines Borough manager Debra Schnabel said the apology and the censure should have closed the matter.

“We thought we had made amends and that it’s honorable to move forward with your agreements, that your issue is behind you,” Schnabel said. “You don’t get to say afterward, ‘but you didn’t mean it.’”

Brice emailed Schnabel July 12 after the assembly censured Morphet and wrote, “The Union considers the issue closed and the censure resolved.”

While the political ad against Morphet indicates otherwise, Local 71 representatives aren’t the only parties who feel the censure is unresolved. Morphet disputes the fact that he breached the borough’s collective bargaining agreement because he received the complaints from members of the public, not the borough.

Brice said Morphet’s claim that he didn’t violate the contract proves he didn’t take the censure seriously.

“Therein lies our problem,” Brice said. “Mr. Morphet still does not understand the gravity of his actions and he won’t listen.”

Haines Borough employees must be members of Local 71 or pay an agency fee to the union, according to the borough’s collective bargaining agreement.


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