Anchorage mayor stays mum on accusations of unethical, unlawful actions

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson at an Anchorage Assembly meeting on Jan. 24, 2023. It was the first Assembly meeting since since numerous allegations of unethical and unlawful actions were made against him by his former municipal manager. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson remained silent Tuesday about a slew of allegations made against his administration.

Bronson publicly addressed the Anchorage Assembly Tuesday night, the first regular Assembly meeting since numerous allegations of unethical and unlawful actions were made against the mayor in a scathing letter from former Municipal Manager Amy Demboski. Bronson fired Demboski last month.

Bronson’s report to the Assembly was fairly short — just under two minutes. He touched on the latest batch of graduates from the city’s firefighter academy, as well as the upcoming Anchorage Economic and Development Corporation’s economic forecast luncheon.

Absent from his remarks was a response to the allegations in Demboski’s letter, which include improper contracting and other “unlawful and unethical activities using municipal resources.”

During her report, Assembly chair Suzanne LaFrance discussed the Assembly taking the unprecedented step to give itself subpoena powers to get information on another controversial aspect of Bronson’s tenure: the hiring of former health director Joe Gerace.

Gerace resigned shortly before Alaska Public Media and American Public Media published an article revealing that Gerace had lied about his education, military and medical credentials. LaFrance on Tuesday subpoenaed Anchorage Human Resources Director Niki Tshibaka to appear later during their meeting, in a closed-door session, to discuss his role in vetting, hiring and terminating Gerace.

At the end of her report, LaFrance turned her attention to the mayor.

“Since this issue is so serious, I wanted to extend to you an opportunity for a moment of privilege to respond to our community regarding the growing concerns of financial and employment mismanagement, as well as the results of the Gerace investigation,” LaFrance said. “If you would like to speak to that now, the floor is yours.”

Bronson responded to the concerns surrounding Gerace by saying that, by law, the city cannot divulge human resources records. He did not comment on the allegations in Demboski’s letter.

After Bronson’s response, LaFrance reiterated that there was a “standing invitation” for him to speak on the other allegations, “should you change your mind and decide to address the community regarding other allegations, especially concerning financial issues.”

Bronson left the meeting about an hour later.

Bronson’s administration has previously declined to answer questions about Demboski’s allegations, citing the advice of the municipal attorney’s office. The Assembly has enacted several emergency ordinances in response to the allegations, including clarifying the ombudsman’s access to personnel files for investigations as well as requiring that all city contracts larger than $10,000 be put before the body.

Bronson’s administration is also under fire about surveillance footage. Multiple city employees have accused the administration of monitoring the footage to see who’s visiting the ombudsman and Anchorage Assembly. The administration says it’s investigating, and the matter has been turned over to the municipal prosecutor’s office.

Meanwhile, the administration announced another leadership shakeup Tuesday evening: Acting Municipal Attorney Blair Christensen is resigning, and her last day is Feb. 8. City officials said Christensen was leaving to pursue another job opportunity. Bronson’s first municipal attorney, Patrick Bergt, resigned as the city’s top lawyer in June and the Assembly this fall rejected the mayor’s pick to replace him, Mario Bird.

Ian Dickson

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