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Anchorage’s first ever chief equity officer fired, replaced by Bronson administration

Anchorage’s first ever chief equity officer, Clifford Armstrong III, was appointed by Acting...
Anchorage’s first ever chief equity officer, Clifford Armstrong III, was appointed by Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson in April 2021. The NAACP says he was illegally fired by the Bronson administration on Oct. 7, 2021.(Rachel McPherron / Alaska's News Source)
Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 6:06 AM AKDT|Updated: Oct. 11, 2021 at 1:10 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage’s first ever chief equity officer was fired by the Bronson administration last week and his replacement was announced Monday morning.

Clifford Armstrong III was appointed by then Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson in April. Part of his job was to promote equity and opportunity within the municipality, as well as work with the mayor’s office to ensure community representation and to help create opportunities for communities of color, the disability community, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ+ residents and more.

The local NAACP claims Mayor Dave Bronson fired Armstrong illegally “in (an) attempt to cover up report of Municipal record on equal opportunity in hiring” and is calling on the administration to rehire him.

“Chief Equity Officer Armstrong had written a report documenting the city’s failure to comply with federal civil rights laws, a failure which puts at risk federal funding used by the city,” the NAACP president Kevin McGee said in a release. “Armstrong was terminated after sharing the final report with high-ranking Bronson administration staff in an apparent attempt to cover up the report.”

The mayor’s office said that’s not true.

“Mr. McGee’s claims are completely false and unwarranted,” wrote Corey Allen Young, a spokesperson for Bronson, in an email to Alaska’s News Source on Monday. “Before Mr. Armstrong was even living in Alaska, The Municipality of Anchorage had been working on an Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) report during the Berkowitz Administration.”

In an interview with Alaska’s News Source on Monday, Armstrong said he was working on an affirmative action plan for the city and had emailed a handful of people in the Bronson administration a draft of the report. He said he found disparities in hiring and promotions and low levels of people with disabilities, veterans, people of color and women being hired.

Armstrong said he sent the draft report to administration officials last Monday. He was fired three days later.

“In that report it documents statistically significant disparities in hiring practices for women, people of color, veterans, employees with disabilities,” Armstrong said. “Not just that there are disparities, but also recommendations for how to address them. I think if that was one of the things that they didn’t want to have a conversation about I think that’s unfortunate because it’s not necessarily just them. I do fairly explicitly say that these are things that have been issues well before they go into office.”

Armstrong was reportedly fired without cause or consent from the Anchorage Assembly, according to Armstrong, multiple assembly members and the NAACP.

“When the HR folks spoke to me they did not give cause,” Armstrong said. “I called about 20 minutes after I left the building to confirm that there was no cause and that was confirmed.”

According to a section of municipal code on the office of equity and justice, “the chief equity officer may be dismissed by the mayor only for cause shown, and only with the concurrence of a majority of the assembly.”

“The mayor fired the Chief Equity Officer last Thursday without any cause shown or consultation of the Assembly,” wrote Quinn-Davidson in an email to Alaska’s News Source on Monday. “...The mayor is quickly establishing himself as someone willing to break the law to meet his agenda, and as someone willing to harm Municipal employees along the way. This is a sad moment for our city.”

Assembly member Meg Zaletel said it’s unclear if Armstrong could actually be fired by the mayor and she has reached out for legal help.

“I haven’t heard from our council yet on his position. I’m really keen to hear it because I don’t know. This is not what I was expecting when I voted for the position,” Zaletel said. “I figured if that person was ever to be let go that there would be a cause stated, that it would be brought to the assembly and the assembly would either say ‘yes we agree or no we don’t.’”

Allen Young, however, said the mayor acted within his rights, citing a section of the city charter that describes the powers of the mayor.

“The mayor shall appoint all heads of municipal departments, subject to confirmation by the assembly, on the basis of professional qualifications. Persons appointed by the mayor serve at the pleasure of the mayor,” it states.

The administration has already announced Armstrong’s replacement: Uluao “Junior” Aumavae.

According to a release sent Monday, Aumavae was born in American Samoa and moved to Anchorage with his family when he was a child. He recently worked as the community outreach specialist for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Alaska and for the National Football League Player Association.

In the release, Bronson said Aumavae “will be a great addition in our efforts to ensure the Municipality of Anchorage’s workforce is more representative of the incredible diversity and talent of Anchorage’s citizens.”

Alaska’s News Source spoke to Aumavae in November 2017 after his brother was found dead after being missing for nearly a month. At the time, Aumavae was critical of Alaska State Troopers and his perception that troopers were slow to issue a Silver Alert.

Facebook messages to Aumavae have not been returned and neither an email to his nonprofit Elite Athletic Trend nor an email address associated with the nonprofit worked.

When asked what he was going to do now, Armstrong said he has a strong resume and skill set.

“I definitely think, and especially from what I’ve seen, like the municipality definitely needs somebody with my skill set to at least set us on the right track,” Armstrong said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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