By James Brooks
Alaska Beacon 

Legislature rejects governor's nominees to school board, fisheries commission


The Alaska Legislature voted May 7 to remove Bob Griffin from the state school board amid bipartisan unhappiness over his perceived political actions as a board member.

The vote came amid the Legislature’s annual vote on gubernatorial nominees. Legislators approved 78 of the 81 people subject to legislative confirmation during a joint session of the state House and Senate.

They rejected Griffin for a second term on the board. Legislators also rejected Anchorage radio host Mike Porcaro as a new appointee to the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission.

Griffin, appointed to the school board in 2019, was reappointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy to a second five-year term, but Anchorage Sen. Löki Tobin, co-chair of the Senate Education Committee, spoke against his nomination during the joint session of House and Senate members.

Tobin accused Griffin of violating the Executive Branch Ethics Act by appearing at a charter school board meeting in his official capacity without permission. During his legislative confirmation hearing, Griffin said he had been advocating at the charter school meeting for the use of public funds at private schools, something banned by the Alaska Constitution.

Dunleavy’s administration is arguing in a court case that the practice complies with the constitution.

Tobin said the Alaska Reads Act, a law proposed in part by Dunleavy, requires an annual convention of state educators to discuss the law’s implementation. Griffin is supposed to be in charge of that meeting, Tobin said, and it hasn’t happened.

Tobin and several other legislators criticized Griffin’s decision to lobby legislators into sustaining Dunleavy’s veto earlier this year of a multipart education measure that included a permanent increase to the state’s K-12 public school funding formula.

Big Lake Rep. Kevin McCabe said legislators should keep Griffin on the board in order to ensure a “balanced board” that includes “opposing views,” and Wasilla Rep. David Eastman suggested that votes against Griffin were “efforts to retaliate against Mr. Griffin” in part because he was successful with his lobbying on the governor’s side.

Griffin needed 31 of the Legislature’s 60 members to approve his renomination to the state school board, but he got only 21 votes, all from Republican lawmakers.

A vote on a second school board member, Barbara Tyndall of Fairbanks, was close but ultimately successful, with 34 votes in favor and 26 against. Some legislators suggested that Tyndall’s education experience, which is limited to religious schools, wasn’t enough for a seat on the school board.

The vote on Porcaro, a radio host who once delivered red pens to the state Capitol as part of a publicity stunt supporting Dunleavy budget vetoes, changed during the course of the joint legislative session.

Lawmakers initially voted 31-29 to support his nomination to a state commission that oversees commercial fisheries limited entry permits, but a few members changed their votes on a revote later in the day and his confirmation failed on a 30-30 vote.

Kodiak Rep. Louise Stutes and other lawmakers criticized Porcaro’s lack of commercial fishing experience as a reason to vote against his confirmation.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization.


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