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Anchorage’s first chief equity officer details why he believes he was fired, reposts political cartoon showing KKK

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 fired and replaced by Mayor Dave Bronson's administration on Oct. 7, 2021.(Rachel McPherron / Alaska's News Source)
Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 2:54 PM AKDT|Updated: Oct. 19, 2021 at 4:25 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A little more than a week after Anchorage’s first chief equity officer was fired and replaced by Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration, Clifford Armstrong III updated his LinkedIn profile with an article he wrote about the reasons he believes he was let go without cause.

On top of the article was a political cartoon of a Black man being carried out of an office by three KKK figures.

“Consider yourself involuntarily separated form the Anchorage equity office, Armstrong,” the political cartoon reads.

The political cartoon was published in the Homer News, which employs a longtime freelance cartoonist. Armstrong said he reposted the image because it was a reflection of how the community feels about his firing.

“Irrespective of how I may feel, or the administration may feel, that’s the community’s interpretation of the situation.” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said he never had any interpersonal interactions that were tinged with racism between himself the Bronson administration, except for one person, which Armstrong would not elaborate about.

“There are definitely statements that have been made that definitely can be interpreted to have kind of like a racial lens to it,” Armstrong said. “I think using the term ‘racists’ for any individual can be troubling because you don’t know necessarily intent. But I can say you can definitely have impact that people feel do have racial impacts.”

The mayor’s spokesperson, Corey Allen Young, said in an emailed statement that it is “dangerous and irresponsible” to use imagery that depicts the KKK.

“There are several people of color who are in leadership positions on the Mayor’s team including African-Americans,” Young wrote. “I don’t work for the KKK and I challenge Mr. Armstrong to stop making accusations that are ridiculous and downright mean. What Mr. Armstrong is alleging is unequivocally false and unwarranted.”

In his LinkedIn profile, Armstrong listed four reasons why he believes he was let go, including his affirmative action plan summary report, the budget process and how executives in the administration are hired.

“I was hired for technical competence and not political (allegiance). And in performing my duties, my obligation was to follow the municipal code. You will have to decide for yourselves whether technical competence and legal compliance are valued by this administration,” Armstrong wrote in the LinkedIn.

The fourth reason Armstrong lists is political commitments.

“In a public forum, the Mayor said he viewed my office and position as (unnecessary) and something to be removed upon winning the election,” he wrote. “That obviously didn’t happen and he has since named someone else, significantly less technically qualified than myself, to hold the office. The administration is clearly engaged in a political squabble with the assembly and my position and office were convenient pawns in a larger dispute unrelated to my ability to perform my job.”

The Bronson administration replaced Armstrong with Uluao “Junior” Aumavae.

According to a release sent out last week, 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.”

Which government body can fire Armstrong is also in dispute.

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.”

According to Young, 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.

Assembly member Meg Zaletel has asked legal council to investigate. As of Tuesday afternoon, Zaletel said there was no clarification on the issue.

Last week, the Anchorage Assembly voted to hire its own legal counsel to tackle ongoing issues of separation of power between the assembly and Bronson’s administration.

Armstrong also wrote that if offered, he would like to continue working as the city’s chief equity officer.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with response from the mayor’s office.

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