- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The president of the Alaska Correctional Officers Association is suing top officials with the state Department of Corrections, alleging he was repeatedly harassed for his union advocacy.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday by Randall McLellan targets corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt and Director of Institutions Bryan Brandenburg, the Anchorage Daily News (http://is.gd/JQl0Mf) reported.

As union president, McLellan represents 900 officers and has often acted a spokesman for the organization that has long been in conflict with administrators over issues like safety and staffing levels.

According to the lawsuit, the problems against McLellan began in 2008 after the union issued a vote of no-confidence in Schmidt, who spearheaded staffing cuts. The 13-page lawsuit says that shortly after the vote, the department began “a secret monitoring file” on McLellan.

“The file included reports of such trivial matters as failure to say good morning, a failure to verbally respond to a comment and a failure to wear his name tag,” the lawsuit states. “The file was created in an apparent effort to find grounds for subjecting McLellan to discipline.”

McLellan’s attorney, David Shoup, said he could not comment beyond information in the lawsuit.

DOC spokeswoman Kaci Schroeder confirmed that McLellan is employed as a correctional officer at the Mat-Su Pretrial facility. Schroeder declined to comment on allegations raised.

“It’s really soon. It was just filed,” she said, referring to the lawsuit. “So we haven’t had the chance to figure out if there’s comment or no comment or what’s going on.”

McLellan seeks more than $100,000 in damages in the lawsuit filed in state Superior Court.

The lawsuit says that among instances of unfair discipline against McLellan, he was the subject of a seven-day suspension for failing to pick up outgoing inmate mail.

According to the lawsuit, McLellan also was denied business leave, as well as the opportunity to work overtime and assignment to positions in favor of officers with less seniority.

“It is a repeated joke among staff at the Mat-Su Pretrial Facility that you should not stand too close to McLellan because he has a target on his back and they might miss and hit you,” the lawsuit states.

Last May, McLellan was placed on administrative leave following an April investigatory interview concerning an incident where he pepper-sprayed an inmate described as a “violent offender” so he could close the cell door, according to the lawsuit.

In June 2013, McLellan was demoted from sergeant to correctional officer II.

According to the lawsuit, the demotion letter alleged McLellan repeatedly disregarded policies, procedures and management directives. No evidence of misconduct was presented at a disciplinary hearing, according to the lawsuit, which says McLellan and his shift had to undergo retraining that included being pepper-sprayed in the face. McLellan had already been sprayed once as part of training, according to the lawsuit.

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