Human Rights Commission quietly fires director

Marilyn Stewart

Marilyn Stewart worked as executive director of the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights from July 1 to 24 (Photo by Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

The Alaska State Commission for Human Rights has confirmed firing its executive director in July, after she had been on the job for less than a month, but the commission continues to say little about it.

The vote to remove Marilyn Stewart continues a period of turmoil for the commission going back months.

Under Alaska’s Human Rights Law, the Human Rights Commission oversees investigations of various types of discrimination and seeks to remedy them. It reports directly to the governor’s office. Six of the seven commissioners currently serving are appointees of Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Stewart is a former director of the Municipality of Anchorage’s Office of Equal Opportunity and, last fall, a Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives. After losing the election, she worked for Gov. Dunleavy’s office, before she was hired as the Human Rights Commission’s executive director.

Officially, Stewart worked at the commission from July 1 to 24, according to the governor’s office.

More than two weeks later, neither the governor’s office or the commission have said anything else publicly about the firing. The commission’s interim director, Nanette Gay, would only confirm this week that the commissioners had voted to remove Stewart, but she refused to say when the vote occurred or how the commissioners voted.

Gov. Dunleavy’s spokesman Matt Shuckerow said that, although the Human Rights Commission is administered through the governor’s office, it operates independently of the governor. Shuckerow referred all other questions back to Gay, the commission’s interim director.

This is the second time this year that the commission has lost its executive director. Its previous director resigned in April after a controversy surrounding her questioning — on the commission’s Facebook page — a sticker on a truck in the commission’s parking garage that said “Black rifles matter,” a pro-gun reference to the message of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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