Monday, March 25, 2019

AK: When "Human Rights Commission" acts to Chill Exercise of the Bill of Rights




A scandal is developing in Alaska, as the head of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) has been implicated in directly chilling the exercise of the First and Second Amendments of the Constitution. Governor Dunleavy has ordered an investigation of the scandal.

The head of the HRC, Marti Buscaglia, became upset over a bumper sticker on a contractors work truck.   The bumper sticker showed the silhouette of an AR15 type rifle, along with the words "Black Rifles Matter".  It is a pretty common call to support the Second Amendment. Brenton Linegar owns Sage Mechanical, the small plumbing and air conditioning company that owns the truck. Sage Mechanical's client is the owner of the building where the truck was parked. The HRC rents space in the building. Somehow, the Executive Director of the HRC in Alaska interpreted the Second Amendment sticker as being offensive.

The picture of the Second Amendment sticker of Black Rifles Matter on the truck, with the license plate, was posted on the official  Alaskan HRC facebook page, with the comment: "In what world is this OK?".

 At first, it was not clear what Buscaglia found offensive about the bumper sticker. Was it the pro-Second Amendment message? No. The HRC, after considerable comments on facebook, clarified Buscaglia had read the sticker as "racist".  The best reporting I have seen on this issue is on mustreadalaska.com. From mustreadalaska.com:
Gov. Michael Dunleavy has asked the Department of Law to launch an investigation into the apparent abuse of state power that occurred on Thursday at the parking lot of the Alaska Human Rights Commission.

The executive director of the Alaska Commission on Human Rights, in her own handwriting, told a plumbing company to move its vehicle from the parking lot due to what the bureaucrat thought was a racist sticker.
Buscaglia left a handwritten note, written on the back of her business card. In addition,  there was a business card left by State Probation Officer Kendall Rhyne.

Other commenters on facebook have claimed there is more to the scandal than Buscaglia telling the contractor to leave the parking lot because of the sticker, posting a picture of the truck on the official facebook page, and leaving the intimidating note and business cards in  the vehicle. From facebook.com:

Sandie Roach The business card is one issue. The other is the email she sent to his client. As we haven't seen it, here is the jist...
The client had received an email from Marti Buscaglia, the Executive Director of the Commission. According to Linegar, the email implied Linegar was a racist and asked the client to “please do something” about Sage Mechanical. The email also accused Sage Mechanical of performing substandard work and exercising poor judgement.
 If the email asking the client (the owner of the building) to "do something" is real, the matter may become a serious criminal  case.  It is illegal to conspire to deprive someone of their Constitutional rights. In this case, it is the right to free expression under the first Amendment. From fbi.gov:
This statute makes it unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person of any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same).
It seems unlikely the head of  the Alaskan HRC would not realize the potential criminality of their actions.

Marti Buscaglia does not have experience in the law, or a legal degree. Her experience is in newspaper management. 

 There is a section of the federal law (18 U.S.C. Section 242)  that makes it illegal to use an official government position to deprive anyone of rights, privileges, or immunities under the color of law. It is unclear if Buscaglia's actions meet that level of illegality. It appears she was using the power of her office to intimidate Brenton Linegar. The investigation called for by Governor Dunleavy should determine if that is correct. Using the power of her office to pressure the client to fire Sage Mechanical would be illegal, if it were based on his political views, as evidenced by the Second Amendment Sticker.

The scandal and investigation are ongoing.

©2019 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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1 comment:

Paul Weber said...

I have yet to see any good come out of any Human Rights Council.