News from Patrick Flynn

Hall pass?

As you’ve likely read in the local paper, Anchorage has been without a fire chief since the mayor nudged Craig Goodrich into retirement last month.  When police chief Rob Huen resigned a few weeks later the administration set up a search committee to seek a replacement.  Not so with the fire department as the mayor apparently had a successor in mind.  And you’d be forgiven for asking who because, other than the name, I have no idea who Mark Hall is.  What I do know is that last week the administration submitted an ordinance that would waive two sections of Anchorage Municipal Code in order to clear the way for Mr. Hall to assume the post of fire chief.

The sections in question, 3.30.179 and 3.30.168, read as follows:

3.30.179  Employment of relatives.  Executive employees are governed by the standards for employment of relatives found in AMC 3.30.168 and its definition of “relative.”

3.30.168  Employment of relatives.

A.   Definition. As used in this section,
Relative means any person who, by blood, marriage or adoption, including in-laws and step-relatives, is the child, sibling, parent, aunt, uncle, first cousin, grandparent, or grandchild of an applicant or employee and any person who lives in the same household as an applicant or employee.
B.   Policy. Except as otherwise provided in this section, an applicant who is otherwise qualified may not be denied appointment to a municipal position or continued employment with the municipality because the applicant’s relative is employed by the municipality.
C.   Prohibitions. The following prohibitions shall be applied and govern in the order listed. No person may be appointed to or continue to be employed in a position in any agency:
1.   If the appointee or employee is a relative of the agency head or another employee higher than the agency head in the chain of command established by chapters 3.20 or 3.30; or
2.   If the position will directly supervise or is directly supervised by a relative, provided:
a.   The director may authorize in writing a temporary appointment to or continued employment in a position directly supervised by a relative, if the director finds the appointment or continued employment is of short duration and no reasonable alternative is available.
b.   Appointments and continued employment pursuant to this subsection shall be re-evaluated and new findings made by the director not less than every six months
3.   Who is a relative of the appointing authority and who is or would be in the same chain of command as the appointing authority unless the appointment or continued employment is first approved in writing by the agency head and the director, provided:
a.   With respect to new appointments of either current or new employees, the director must first determine that the appointment or continued employment is not likely to adversely affect or unduly impair or conflict with the efficient functioning of the agency, the chain of command, work product, work product review or approval, work place morale, supervisory or lead responsibilities in the agency, shift or work assignments, or other relevant or material job related factors.
b.   With respect to continued employment not involving any appointment, the director must first determine that the continued employment will more than likely not adversely affect or unduly impair or conflict with the efficient functioning of the agency, the chain of command, work product, work product review or approval, work place morale, supervisory or lead responsibilities in the agency, shift or work assignments, or other relevant or material job related factors.
4.   Who is a relative of any other employee in the municipality, if the director and the agency head have determined in writing that a potential conflict of interest exists with: a) the work product, b) work product review or approval, or c) other relevant or material job related factors of the affected employees.
D.   Re-evaluations. The director may, at any time, re-evaluate the effects of a relationship described in subsections C.3 or C.4. of this section on the performance of an employee and the operation of the agencies involved. The director shall reevaluate the relationship described subsections C.3. and CA. of this section if requested by a department head or if an affected employee is promoted, demoted, or transferred.
E.   Corrective action. Subject to the provisions of subsection D. and this subsection, the director may correct appointments and continued employment prohibited by subsection C. of this section by transfer, layoff, demotion or termination of employment.
1.   The director shall take such corrective action under subsection E. of this section which has the least adverse impact on the employees necessary to cure the prohibited appointment or continued employment, provided such corrective action shall always be in the best interests of the municipality.
2.   An employee who creates a relationship subject to subsection C. of this section shall be subject to transfer, layoff, demotion or termination of employment only when the director determines such to be necessary in the best interests of the municipality.
F.   Applicants and employees with relatives in the same agency as the applicant or employee or applicants and employees with a relative covered by subsection C. of this section, shall timely disclose to the director:
1.   The names and relationship to the reporting employee or applicant of all relatives in the employ of the municipality and its agencies, including the existence of such relationships not previously reported;
2.   The creation of a relationship which results in another employee becoming a relative of the reporting applicant or employee together with the other employee’s name and relationship; and
3.   Any change in the information required to be provided under this subsection F.
Got all that?  Basically the situation is this: Mr. Hall apparently has two nephews who work in the Fire Department so, if he’s going to be chief, the Assembly has to grant him a special waiver and that brings up an interesting question.  Should the mayor’s right to appoint the people he or she chooses to various positions supersede the municipality’s personnel rules?
Yes, according to the Anchorage Home Builders Association.  Here’s what they had to say in an August 6 letter:

The membership of the Anchorage Home Builders Association is supporting Mark Hall for the position of Fire Chief of Anchorage.  Mark brings years of experience and professionalism to this position and would be a great addition to the city of Anchorage.  Our membership has worked with Mark in the past and finds his practical solution to problems to be very effective.

No, according to an e-mail I received (I’ve received some other, similar messages as well):

Rules are in place to choose a new department head (fire chief).  Those rules should not be changed in order to make a particular appointment.  The rules were implemented due to the history of problems with relatives working under or with each other.  I agree that the mayor can choose the candidate he favors, as long as they meet the qualifications of the position. Please don’t change the rules.

The ordinance does provide conditions for the waiver, such as precluding Mr. Hall from directly supervising his nephews and providing for the Municipal Manager and Employee Relations Director to review the employment relationship at least once every six months, but will that work?  Representatives from the firefighters union have indicated they have no objection to Mr. Hall serving as chief but I wonder if employees who knew about the semi-annual review might use that process improperly (not that anyone would do such a thing with ethics laws)?  And, by the way, is this approach even legal?  (I’ve asked for more information on that subject.)

For me, it would be nice to hear a little more about Mr. Hall and what it is about his background that provides a compelling reason to set aside the aforementioned sections of code.  It would also be nice to hear your thoughts so feel free to share!



This contribution was made on Tuesday, 18. August 2009 at 19:28 and was published under the category Coming events. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. I believe he should be appointed on qualifications, merritt, work ethic, etc…. Who cares if he has relatives in the department? That’s kind of ridiculous don’t you think? There are many relatives in the White House and other political departments, why do we have such a ridiculous code here in the municpality anyway???

    Comment: john doe – 19. August 2009 @ 7:36 pm

  2. Your right Mr. Flynn, you don’t know Mark Hall and it’s too bad you didn’t try to meet him before jumping to conclusions of your own. Because if you did, and you respected the opinions of the member’s on the Anchorage Fire Department, then this post would not exist.

    Comment: JT – 19. August 2009 @ 7:46 pm

  3. To correct john doe, the next Fire Chief SHOULD be appointed on Merit, work ethic, etc. That does not mean Mark Hall should be appointed based on those, if that were the case there is more than one other current AFD employees that are more qualified, proven and respected. Mr. Hall is being choosen because he was the only person within the fire department to host a fundraising party for Mr. Sullivan prior to his election. His supervision of his relatives is not a problem, it is the lack of respect he has for and from the rest of the department.

    Comment: John Doe II – 19. August 2009 @ 8:32 pm

  4. Rules are written for a reason. It seems in this City we often change the rules so the shoe can fit for this situation or that situation. We then end up with a list of rules that is chopped up and we do not know what the heck the rules mean anymore.

    Sometimes it isn’t a good idea to change rules so that the shoe fits. Although I have nothing against Mr. Hall, I insist that we don’t change rules so the shoe can fit.

    Comment: Jillanne – 19. August 2009 @ 9:22 pm

  5. How true, select an individual based upon merit! That’s why Mark Hall should not be the next appointed fire chief. I would say a MINIMUM of 70% of this department does not trust or respect Mark Hall. He is a close personal friend and fundraiser for Sullivan. Those are the ONLY reasons he will be appointed. Mark is all about Mark. What he does is put himself and his needs before those of the department, time and time again.

    Sorry Anchorage. Tough times ahead and many levels. Mark and Dan, I hope you both have a chance to read this.

    Comment: Me Doe – 19. August 2009 @ 10:11 pm

  6. Jt, you’re obviously someone with an extremely biased opinion of Hall. Mr, Flynn states very clearly that he doesn’t know Hall, and he presents a positive letter, and a negative one. He asks for impressions of Hall so he can get a feeling what people think of him. Nowhere does Mr. Flynn make a judgement of his own, positive, or negative.

    Methinks you protest too much. Are you worried about something?

    Comment: yetanotherjohndoe – 19. August 2009 @ 10:47 pm

  7. Hello Mr. Flynn and you other commenters:
    I feel compelled to make some response to what has been said about my brother. I do appreciate Mr. Flynn’s willingness to get to know Mark Hall before he passes any sort of judgement on the appropriateness of accepting Mark as the fire chief appointee. The cowardice shown by people making accusations (70 percent of the department don’t respect him, the only reason he got the appointment was because he catered a function for the mayor) is unconscionable and thus compells me to make a comment. Surely those of you making such false and outlandish accusations must have something to worry about or other axes to grind. I would encourage you to at least, follow Mr. Flynn’s lead in getting to know Mark before you castigate him in this forum. I realize that skeptics would expect a brother to defend Mark but I can assure you that if there was EVER a candidate who puts the department first and strives very hard to be the best public servant you will find that in my brother. Keep an open mind and you will find that the city will have no regrets about having Mark in the position of Fire Chief.
    Proudly I enter my name Ed Hall

    Comment: Ed Hall – 20. August 2009 @ 7:42 am

  8. Mark Hall is a professional ladder climber, and while there isn’t always a problem with that, he at times hasn’t always put the entire department (i.e. his “brother/sister FFs) interests ahead of his own desire to become Chief. He and Sullivan are also close, a little too close if you ask me. It is no surpirse Coach was “nudged” out of his position, as it was no secret that with the election of Sullivan Mark would become chief. Why do you think Mark hosted Sullivan “meet and greet” type events at his home? How this friendship between them could potentially play out is concerning if Mark is chief.

    On a personal level, Mark is a nice guy, from a good well known family. He has a lovely wife and a sweet daughter. So getting to know this Mark would do everyone well, however, the problem occurs when blending his Mark with work/AFD Mark.

    Do I think the assembly should make this exception? No. They haven’t (to my knowledge) made it for any other AFD family who works together, sowhy start now? These rules are in place for a reason as nepotism is a very real thing.

    Comment: afdwifey – 20. August 2009 @ 8:32 am

  9. See Chief Larry Langston and brother Steve – Captain

    Comment: Anonymous – 20. August 2009 @ 8:49 am

  10. I don’t know Hall, but I do know the lack of respect Sullivan has for the men and women who serve in the front lines of public safety and that is that they are expendable! I know this from the actions he took last week by having AFD absorb 40% of the latest budget cuts.

    My question is this: Why is Sullivan pushing so hard, hard enough to petition to change the rules just to get Hall into the fire chief position?

    Comment: Anonymous – 20. August 2009 @ 10:07 pm

  11. I am a long-time Anchorage resident who has several senior contacts within the AFD. I follow fire department politics closely, but I don’t subscribe to either the Union or Administration slant to the facts. Here’s my assessment:

    I’ve known Mark Hall since soon after he hired on with AFD. Yes he is highly motivated and enthusiastic, sometimes in the positive way, but most times motivated to ensure that “Mark” is in the limelight or getting credit for what’s happening. He progressed rapidly through the ranks-because he is intelligent. But book smarts and fast talk don’t make one the best person for the job, especially in the Fire Service were firefighters’ lives and citizen’s lives are on the line. Mark wasn’t respected as a captain because his book smarts weren’t validated by experience in fighting fires or working emergency scenes. He got very excitied at emergencies and couldn’t maintain his composure which is important. So, logically crew members couldn’t depend on him to get them out of dicey situations. That didn’t slow him down. He soon made promotion to Senior Captain as well as becoming the president of the Firefighters Union. Then an interesting thing happened in year 2000. John Fullenwider was the fire chief (yes the same John Fullenwider, now retired who is the head of Sullivan’s fire Department transition team). The Firefighters Union, under Mark, was negotiating their new contract, and Mark agreed for the Union to make the major concession to make all new Battalion Chiefs be non-represented employees instead of Union Members. (This gives administration more control over their work schedules, wages and overtime). It passed because it affected a minority of union members, and the rest who were not affected got some great raises and pay incentives out of the new contract. The clincher is that very soon after that contract was passed, Mark, as a junior “Senior Captain” who I believe was still on probation in that rank, was somehow selected buy Chief John Fullenwider to fill a vacant Battalion Chief position. Fullenwider bypassed several highly competent, field tested and respected senior officers to pick the junior guy with no experience or background for the Battalion Chief position. Mark was way over his head now, and it was readily apparent to his supervisors, peers and subordinates. Fullenwider even admitted to his staff that he “had made a mistake” in promoting Hall. Mark’s personal motto of “Living the Dream” became a joke to others behind his back.

    But, there were opportunities to take the spotlight off of his deficiencies and highlight Mark’s abilities. The tragedy of 9-11-01 rained down on us. Mark, in his wisdom jumped to the head of the line to personally take condolences from our community back to New York City- again back in the spotlight with interviews and videos and photo shoots.

    And then the tragic Tsunami of 2004 in Phuket, Thailand. Mark, on his own and without Department permission organized a “rescue party” with some of his buddies to fly over there and save the world. There was a lot of action necessary behind the headlines to fpatch things up, adopt his concept and make it an official AFD effort. The group got over there and basically showed up for photo opportunities around the country side. Going whereever they felt like without any coordination with the official rescue efforts.

    Mark has always made it known that he wanted to be Fire Chief, but up until the last 6 months or so it was nothing but a joke to those in the know around the department, along with his “living the dream” motto. Then in 2008/2009 with the mayoral race the pieces started falling into place.

    *Retired Chief John Fullenwider and Battalion Chief Hall hosted fundraisers for Dan Sullivan’s campaign. Hmmmm.
    *JohnFullenwider was selected to head Mayor Sullivan’s Fire Dept Transition Team. Hmmmm.
    *Mark Hall gets the nod from Sullivan to be the new Fire Chief (after they uncermoniously dump current chief Craig Goodrich). Deputy Chief of Operations Doug Schrage, the best candidate for the position is passed over, just like the best candidates for Battalion Chief were passed over when Mark got his Battalion Chief position.
    *The Anchorage Home Builders Association are supporting Mark in a letter to your blog. Imagine that; Mark just finished a 2 or 3 year stint as the fire marshal and head of Fire Prevention and building safety where I’m sure he made lots of builders happy so they’d have his back.

    *Mark’s wife and his Doctor and PA brothers work for Beacon, the company that somehow got the pricey contract to perform annual and Hazardous Materials physicals on the 400 +/- employees of Anchorage Fire Department. Hmmmm.

    In his tenure as a Battalion Chief, Mark was gone frequently, out there living the dream going to seminars and conferences, and not working here on the streets trying to gain his much needed practical experience in this profession that he says he loves so much. Has he ever attended thehighly respected Executive Fire Officer program at the National Fire Academy? No – no chance for fame and recognition there- REAL fire chiefs attend those courses to learn how to do their job. Mark’s lack of experience would show up in neon lights. Does he even have a baccalaureate degree in Fire Service Administration?

    I encourage people to ask this question of the firefighters and paramedics on the streets of Anchorage, or the firefighters that they know: Who will they support for Fire Chief? I know the majority of them will not support Mark, and for good reasons. He’s Living The Dream- HIS dream. In the Fire Service, it is important to be able to depend on your brother and sister firefighters. You may need them to save your life some day. Mark’s allies lie outside the department.

    We in Anchorage have an excellent fire department. Let’s ensure that there is excellent leadership to keep it that way. If Mayor Sullivan will not promote the most qualified local candidate – Deputy Chief Doug Schrage- as Fire Chief, we’d be better off with a nationwide search than to pick the local Golden Boy and best political fundraiser.

    Mayor Sullivan wants the Assembly to waive the “employment of relatives” sections in the Municipal Code so his political buddy can be Fire Chief. I say NO WAY! and hope you will too once you check the facts. We can’t override the political machine and the good ol’ boys, but we can make them follow the rules that are put in place for a reason.

    That’s just my view.
    Concerned Anchorage Citizen who knows the story.

    Comment: My View – 21. August 2009 @ 9:50 am

  12. Ed Hall,

    Your comment “The cowardice shown by people making accusations (70 percent of the department don’t respect him, the only reason he got the appointment was because he catered a function for the mayor) is unconscionable and thus compells me to make a comment.” is exactly the point I think people are making regarding Mark Hall.

    Mark is a high school bully. No current employee in their right mind would sign their name while making these comments. Mark will be our next Fire Chief. Mark has clearly shown his propensity for retribution against those who cross him. Sad, juvenile, and not a character trait for a true leader.

    Mark will be bad for AFD and VERY bad for Anchorage Emergency Medical Services. Period. As ‘My View’ stated, we need OUTSIDE blood to effect real change here in Anchorage. If Doug Schrage isn’t given the lead than give it to someone who can inject fresh idea’s, not Sullivan’s ‘yes-man’ fundraising buddy-buddy.

    My View – Please come speak to the Assembly during the public comment period pertaining to this ordinance change. You are well informed, articulate, and if you are truly “outside” the department you are hopefully outside of Mark’s reach.

    Comment: J. Doe III – 21. August 2009 @ 12:56 pm

  13. Our system is such that the mayor is allowed to pick his own cabinet. It may not be the best system, but it is the one we have. I hope that some day my experience, education, and abilities will be considered. Until then, people need to know that I am 100% committed to Chief Hall’s success and the success of our fire department, as I always have been.

    Comment: Doug Schrage – 22. August 2009 @ 6:51 am

  14. Are you all serious? Mark Hall is the most committed and loyal man that you will find. Why penalize a man that has brothers and nephews that help serve people. Too me that is a man that I would love help protect and serve the people of Alaska. Some say that Mark is all about Mark. Confidence should not always be perceived as cockiness. You talk about 9/11, again a man that wants to help should not be condemed for his williness to help others. I gurantee that whatever the case may be in Manhatten, Mark Hall would have risk his life for the people of New York City. Why convict a man that has nephews bleeding the same blood that will promote him to Fire Chief. Ignorance and jealousy is the only reason I can see. 70% of us in America have a job that a friend or relative opened the door for. What makes AFD any different? Some talk about his emergency services or lack there of. Look at some of the best CEO;s, Owners, or Head Coachs they dont know it all but they know how to get the best out of the people under them. Open your eyes Anchorage. This guy is a leader, motivator, and best of all a family man.
    WAKE UP….
    Jarrod DeGeorgia

    Comment: Jarrod – 22. August 2009 @ 7:24 pm

  15. First of all let me commend Doug Schrage for his comments. It takes a man of integrity to be a team player as well as being willing to sign his name. Doug has been a friend of mine for years and whether it’s him, Mark or someone else as chief, I am sure that they will do whatever it takes to do a respectable job in that position. I won’t belabor any comments about Marks’ motives as those of you who know him understand and respect his altruism.
    I would like to address “the concerned Anchorage citizen who knows the story”. Since you chose to speak from a platform with no foundation, let me enlighten those that may fall for that drivel. It is true that I am a PA that works for Beacon and John Hall is one of the collaborating MD’s that oversees what the PA’s do. Your perception of a “pricey contract” is so far off base it is laughable. The contract that Beacon and other clinics bid on is open for public scrutiny which should effectively squelch your rhetoric. Those of you reading this need to know that the bid was won by the lowest bidder…period. Lucrative…I think not….enjoyable…yes, as I personally enjoy getting to know many of the department employees as they come through our clinic for their physicals.
    Once again, I sign my name as Ed Hall….unafraid of the retribution of the “high school bully”………….I can still beat him up :)!

    Comment: Ed Hall – 22. August 2009 @ 8:06 pm

  16. I don’t know Hall and don’t really have an opinion as to his becoming chief, but I do think the statement a week or so ago on the news that he would have nothing to do with promotions involving his nephews is wrong. If the chief of a fire department has nothing to do with ANY promotion then something is seriously wrong with that chief. Maybe that’s why we have that law!

    Comment: Scott – 24. August 2009 @ 9:20 pm

  17. With a deep respect for the integrity of Doug Schrage and his comment, “My view” said it best and very accurately.

    One thing that was not presented by “My view” was the fact that when Mark Hall interviewed for the Battalion Chief position, he was the current president of the firefighter’s union.

    With his promotion, he had to leave the union and become part of the fire department administration. This would be like Bret Favre leaving the Green Bay Packers, taking the Packer’s play book and joining another team that played the Packers on a regular basis. It’s like taking the secret negociating tactics of the union (if there really were any) and joining “the other side” of contract negociations. In short, many of us felt betrayed and lost respect for Mark Hall.

    That loss of respect for Mark as a person or as an officer for the AFD has not changed.

    The reference made in the news that if appointed to fire chief, Mark Hall would not have any impact with any future promotions of his nephews. For some promotions, there is a “Fire Chief’s Interview.” This is the final step in the promotional process. If Mark Hall excused himself from a nephew’s interview, out of fairness and consistancy to the other promotional candidates, he would have to excuse himself from their interview as well. If I was one of those candidates, I would not appreciate losing the opportunity to “sell myself” one last time to the person who ultimately signs the promotional list document.

    Inconclusion, MarK Hall does not have the support of many (as in majority) members of the fire line for him to be successful as the fire chief for the Municipality of Anchorage.

    Comment: blindedbythelight – 25. August 2009 @ 7:11 am

  18. Actually Mark does in essence have an effect on promotions. Unfortunately the promotional process has been very subjective with a ‘Peer Review’ panel type interview.

    I personally wouldn’t want to be on a Peer Review panel that passed over one of Hall’s friends or relatives. Hall carries a grudge and if he doesn’t like you….

    Comment: Another Doe – 25. August 2009 @ 6:51 pm

  19. Oh man, I’m 1 1/2 months behind in getting to this one… Oh well, here I go.

    Nepotism is a concern, but I feel much more strongly that it should not preclude a person from being the chief.

    That said, it bothers me (and a lot of other people) a great deal that Mark was selected, over an infinitely more qualified person.

    In the world of public safety, a system that allows the mayor to appoint his department heads is universally regarded as the most corrupt of them all, and the most detrimental to the public.

    I’ve attended 5 leadership courses at the National Fire Academy (F.E.M.A.,in Emittsburg, MD), and they all focused heavily on this single topic; how to survive as an appointee and still serve as an advocate of public’ safety.

    Even in the best of circumstances, an appointed chief will be forced to betray his values and do things that are not in the public’s best interests. I certainly couldn’t do it, and not many people can.

    Mayor Fink chose an EXCELLENT chief (Larry Langston). Actually, he was a paramedic and was promoted from the administrative position of DC of EMS. A paramedic becoming chief was unprecedented and blasphemous, UNTIL Langston came alone, having strong support from the vast majority of the department. He was also an excellent speaker, negotiator, and politician. I was brand new to the department and, for years, knew nothing more about politics than the name of our mayor, so I can’t comment on much of anything else.

    The next three chiefs (or should it be chieves?) were the worst possible selections. Competency, leadership, management, etc. for all three was virtually nil, and none had the support or trust of the personnel. But they were perfect for serving the mayor and motivated only by self-preservation.

    Mystrom’s and Begich’s administrations caused substantial harm to the trusting public,iand there was tremendous waste. They were corrupt to their cores; motivated to only benefit themselves.

    Wuerch was an exception (and I thought very highly of Harry Kieling) but, unfortunately, his chief was the worst of the worst (biting my tongue, really really hard).

    Mark Hall is not a well respected, trusted, or considered a leader, but he can be a personable guy and a perfect appointee for Sullivan (opposite of perfect for everyone else). The. AFD employees are disheartened, to say the least (and to put it kindly), but they will never protest. The retribution and retaliation from administration can be (and has been) brutal, including things that few outsiders would even believe.

    Few candidates apply for the chief positions (1, 2, rarely 3) and, usually, the best prospects aren’t interested. Exception: this last time, THE best candidate did apply and would have been the obvious choice, in any other city.

    Our system of mayoral appointees is caused by state law. This single change would enormously improve public safety, quality of management, accountability, morale, honesty, disclosure, etc., etc., etc.

    So what do you think, interested in setting out to change the law?

    Comment: Kurt Sorensen – 01. October 2009 @ 2:39 pm

  20. “Keep an open mind and you will find that the city will have no regrets about having Mark in the position of Fire Chief.”

    “I won’t belabor any comments about Marks’ motives as those of you who know him understand and respect his altruism.”

    “Proudly I enter my name Ed Hall”

    bummer, dude

    Comment: Kurt Sorensen – 12. January 2012 @ 10:22 am

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