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Alaskans Gather to Speak Out on Dan Sullivan’s Mercer Decision

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ANCHORAGE — Today, representatives from the Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA), National Association of Teachers- Alaska (NEA-Alaska), the Alaska Professional Fire Fighters Association (AKPFFA), and Alaska Public Employees Association (APEA) joined forces to speak out against Dan Sullivan’s record as attorney general and his ‘personal responsibility‘ for a lawsuit settlement costing Alaskans more than $2 billion and putting the Permanent Fund at risk.

Here’s some of what they had to say:

Jim Duncan, Executive Director of Alaska State Employees Association and former Commissioner of Administration:

“The decision to settle the matter and stop the court case from moving forward, cost the state billions of dollars. There is one person at fault for this decision to give up, our then attorney general, Dan Sullivan. This settlement for pennies on the dollar means the State of Alaska is on the hook for the debt to the retirement system caused by Mercer’s incompetence and Dan Sullivan shirking his duties to Alaskans. As the former commissioner of Administration, I can tell you that this failure to pursue our rightful claim against Mercer in court means that state and local revenues will be needed to cover this retirement debt, rather than paying for all the other needs of a growing population. It should also be noted, in Alaska, public employee pensions are contractual obligations protected by our state’s Constitution. If the retirement trust funds don’t have enough money available to make pension payments, other state assets like budget reserves or the Alaska Permanent Fund, may be tapped for that purpose. Dan Sullivan’s legacy as attorney general isn’t something he should be proud of. He cut a bad deal for ALL Alaskans when he let Mercer off the hook. Leaving the pension system deeply in debt is his legacy, and something that continues to cost us to this day.”

Ron Fuhrer, President of National Education Association-Alaska:

“The Sullivan - Mercer ad is teacher centric, but the issue affects a much larger group. Those groups are public servants and labor groups, teachers, police, fire fighters, and State of Alaska public employees. The more central concern is that this inconsequential settlement drastically shortchanged Alaska public employees. Do the math, the numbers simply don’t add up. $500 million versus $2.8 billion? The winners were Wall Street and not Alaska’s public employees. To tout 20 cents on the dollar a win is simply outrageous and offensive to Alaska’s hard working public employees. Implying the settlement in any way benefits Alaska’s teachers or Alaska public servant pensions when billions were left on the table is untrue. This settlement was simply a bad deal for Alaska.”

Tom Wescott, President of the Alaska Professional Fire Fighters Association:

“What’s the key thing to recognize here is that Dan Sullivan identified $2.8 billion in damages and we settled for $500 million, the state only got $400 million because lawyers took almost $100 million. That means $2.3 billion dollars is now the responsibility of the State of Alaska, when the damage was done by Mercer. Calling this a win is big stretch, I certainly wouldn’t thump my chest about this case if I guided that outcome. Sometimes it’s worth the fight and the time to put in it to do what’s right. In this case I think the easy way out was taken and now the State of Alaska on the hook for $2.3 billion dollars in damages that Mercer caused. On top of that, what’s key in Alaska, especially for my group, fire fighters don’t have a pension anymore because of this shortfall. On top of that, fire fighters don’t participate in social security, we’re a unique group, teachers also are right there with us, we’re unique in all the U.S. No defined benefit pension and no social security. You can’t find that anywhere else in the country. And now because of this shortfall that’s where we stand today.”

Peggy Wilcox of APEA/AFT:

“Dan Sullivan settled the Mercer lawsuit on the backs of thousands of hardworking Alaskans. His decision to settle cost Alaskans over $2 billion and he paid almost $100 million of the settlement to an Outside law firm. When you take actions like that, you send a clear message that your loyalties are not with Alaska.”