Anchorage Assembly considering possible legal action over firing of city’s first chief equity officer

Bronson administration says grounds for firing should be communicated by end of the week
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 2:39 PM AKDT|Updated: Oct. 27, 2021 at 2:58 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Wednesday is the deadline Mayor Dave Bronson was given to tell the Anchorage Assembly his grounds for firing the city’s first chief equity officer, Clifford Armstrong III, or risk potentially going to court.

“If they’re not willing to follow the code then we’re going to have to bring them to the bench,” Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant said.

Assembly leaders had previously sent a letter to the mayor asserting that Armstrong is not fired, and that he is still an employee of the city.

“We do not recognize Mr. Armstrong’s dismissal as complete nor valid and are advised by Assembly Counsel that it is not legally complete,” Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance and Constant said in a letter addressed to the mayor.

The letter goes on to say “city code says 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.”

The section of city code the letter refers to 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.”

The assembly gave Bronson a deadline of Wednesday, Oct. 27 to communicate his grounds for cause. On Wednesday, Spokesperson Corey Allen Young said via email the administration anticipates having a response “by the end of the week.”

Previously, Young has said it’s a personnel issue.

“HR matters are personal, it’s not something that we’re allowed to talk about,” Young said last week.

Young has also said previously that 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,” it states. “Persons appointed by the mayor serve at the pleasure of the mayor.”

Constant was standing by Wednesday afternoon waiting to see if the mayor would provide his grounds for cause for firing Armstrong.

“Someone’s life is being harmed right now because the mayor is unwilling to follow the code,” Constant said.

Armstrong 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, disabled people, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ+ residents and more.

Armstrong said he was working on an affirmative action plan 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 and then 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 on Oct. 11. “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.”

Constant said he’d be meeting with assembly leadership to decide what to do next.

Alaska’s News Source asked if legal action would be next if Bronson does not communicate his grounds for cause.

“It could be,” Constant said.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with a response from Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration.

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