Anchorage’s first chief equity officer has settled with city in lawsuit over termination

Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 4:50 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Clifford Armstrong III, the Municipality of Anchorage’s first chief equity officer, has settled in his case brought against the city claiming wrongful termination.

According to a press release from Mayor Dave Bronson’s office Friday, both sides have “mutually agreed to resolve all pending claims” in the case Armstrong filed against the city in November. In his lawsuit, Clifford had claimed he was wrongfully terminated and that his firing hadn’t been legal.

It was one move among many as the Anchorage Assembly has clashed with Bronson’s administration over Armstrong’s removal. Armstrong had been appointed as the city’s first ever chief equity officer by then Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson in April 2021. Bronson fired him in October and replaced him with Uluao “Junior” Aumavae.

The ongoing argument between the assembly and Bronson’s administration is whether Bronson had the right to remove him without consulting the assembly. The section of municipal code that was created by ordinance in regard to the chief equity officer position states that that person “may be dismissed by the mayor only for cause shown, and only with the concurrence of a majority of the assembly.” Assembly leadership has argued that this means Armstrong’s firing is not valid.

On the other hand, Bronson’s office has argued that, as mayor, he has the power to fire any position that is appointed by the mayor. He and his administration have referenced a section of city charter spelling out the powers of the mayor, which states “persons appointed by the mayor serve at the pleasure of the mayor.”

“Unfortunately, I became entangled in a larger political and legal dispute related to the Chief Equity Officer position,” Armstrong is quoted as saying in the press release. “I am happy with this settlement as it removes me from that dispute. I wish the MOA and the new Chief Equity Officer good luck going forward.”

Bronson wished Armstrong the best in his future endeavors in the press release.

While this lawsuit has resolved, another is still ongoing that revolves around the issue of the chief equity officer position. Bronson sued the assembly in December over the right to terminate someone in that position. Bronson has alleged that members of the assembly violated municipal charter and the Alaska Constitution when it passed the ordinance that created the chief equity officer position.

Municipal Attorney Patrick Bergt in November sent a memo to the assembly in which he said elements of the ordinacne “clearly violates the Charter and the separation of powers doctrine” by creating “for cause” protection for the position.

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