Anchorage Assembly leaders ‘do not recognize’ chief equity officer’s firing, ask Bronson for cause for dismissal

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. He was fired and replaced by Mayor Dave Bronson in October.(Rachel McPherron / Alaska's News Source)
Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 7:34 PM AKDT|Updated: Oct. 22, 2021 at 2:59 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Leaders of the Anchorage Assembly in a letter sent Thursday to Mayor Dave Bronson say they “do not recognize” the firing and replacement of the city’s first chief equity officer, Clifford Armstrong III.

Armstrong was fired by Bronson earlier in October and was replaced by Uluao “Junior” Aumavae. He was the first chief equity officer Anchorage had and says he was not given a cause for the reason he was fired.

On Thursday, Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance and Vice Chair Christopher Constant sent a letter to Bronson saying they don’t recognize the firing as valid and that they have been advised by the assembly’s legal counsel that it is not legally complete.

“As a matter of law Mr. Armstrong is still the Chief Equity Officer of the Municipality,” the letter reads. “He continues to be employed until there is a showing of cause for his dismissal, communicated to the Assembly, and by majority vote the body concurs with the dismissal.”

The section of city code that refers to the chief equity officer position states that “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.”

In a Friday interview, Constant maintained that Armstrong is still a city employee and that Bronson is going to have to find the money somewhere in his budget to pay Armstrong.

“Ultimately the mayor is going to pay Clifford Armstrong for not working at this point because the mayor is making the determination not to allow him into the building,” Constant said.

In the letter, LaFrance and Constant asked Bronson to advise the assembly of his “grounds for cause for Mr. Armstrong’s dismissal” by Oct. 27.

“The assembly is patiently waiting for the mayor to come forward with his documentation of cause,” Constant said. “And we asked for it by the 27th. If we don’t hear by the 27th we will have to take the next step.”

Constant said he couldn’t speak to the specifics of what might happen next, but that the assembly is ready to possibly take it to Alaska Superior Court.

According to the letter, the matter will be scheduled for consideration before the assembly once the grounds for cause are received.

Corey Allen Young, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, said via email that the firing was “complete, valid and legal.” As the mayor’s office has previously, Young referenced a section of city charter that states 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.”

The mayor’s office has not given a reason for firing Armstrong, who told Alaska’s News Source that he called the city after leaving the day he was fired “to confirm that there was no cause, and that was confirmed.”

Armstrong says he was fired three days after sending a draft report on an affirmative action plan for the city to members of the administration, a report that highlighted disparities in hiring practices. He believes that’s one of the reasons he was fired.

“As stated previously, we do not discuss personnel matters as per HR policy,” Young said Thursday via email.

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

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