Kenai borough confirms existence of harassment complaint against governor candidate Pierce

Alaska Republican governor candidate Charlie Pierce is seen in an undated photo published by the Alaska Division of Elections. (Handout photo)

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce, one of four candidates for Alaska governor, was asked to resign as mayor after a secret investigation corroborated a harassment complaint against him and found the complainant’s report credible.

Pierce announced on Aug. 26 that he would resign his mayoral position at the end of September in order to focus on his gubernatorial campaign.

He has refused to discuss rumors that his resignation was motivated by a harassment complaint filed by a borough employee.

Members of the Kenai Borough Assembly, who were briefed about the complaint on Aug. 23, have also refused to discuss the issue, but after an hourlong closed-door meeting on Sunday, they issued a statement confirming the rumors and that Pierce was asked to resign voluntarily.

“As part of a potential mediated resolution, Mayor Pierce was asked to consider submitting his voluntary resignation because a voluntary resignation could provide greater opportunity for pre-suit resolution of this dispute,” the statement said in part.

Pierce did not respond to a phone call or text message seeking comment on Sunday evening.

According to the assembly’s statement, a borough employee and their attorney contacted the borough on July 11 and “reported allegations of harassment by Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce.”

The borough treated the complaint as secret and hired an outside law firm, Ashburn and Mason, to investigate.

According to Sunday’s statement, “On July 26, 2022, Ashburn & Mason provided its confidential investigative report (to) the Borough Attorney that corroborated the complainants report and found the claims credible.”

The borough employee who filed the complaint hung up the phone when contacted by the Beacon and has not responded to text messages seeking comment. According to an individual who has spoken with the employee and is familiar with the case, the employee has an audio recording of Pierce harassing them and has other documentation.

According to the Borough Assembly’s statement, the borough has already agreed to spend up to $10,000 on mediation costs.

That amount does not include the cost of any financial settlement that may emerge from the mediation.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough has already paid $267,000 to settle two prior harassment complaints filed against Pierce.

The borough has rejected public records requests for a copy of the Ashburn and Mason report, and during Sunday’s special meeting, members of the assembly voted 8-0 against releasing it to the public.

Pierce finished fourth in Alaska’s top-four Aug. 16 gubernatorial primary, receiving 6.6% of the vote overall.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy received 40.4% of the vote, finishing first. He was followed by Democratic candidate Les Gara with 23.1% and independent candidate Bill Walker with 22.8%.

All four men will appear on the ballot in Alaska’s Nov. 8 ranked choice election for governor. The deadline to be removed from the ballot was Sept. 5.

Despite statements saying that he intends to focus on his campaign for governor, Pierce has failed to appear at any gubernatorial forums or debates since Aug. 26.

The Beacon has contacted the organizers of more than a half-dozen upcoming events. All have said that Pierce has either declined their invitations or has not responded.

Pierce was not present at Sunday’s Borough Assembly meeting and has said he will not be present at the assembly’s next scheduled meeting, on Sept. 20.

On social media, he has taken time to criticize the assembly for appointing Mike Navarre as the borough’s interim mayor.

That appointment was necessary because the borough will lack an executive officer following Pierce’s resignation and that of his chief of staff.

A special election is expected later this year or in early 2023.

Alaska Beacon

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

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