Proposed ordinance to establish a process to remove the mayor gets mixed reaction

Proposed ordinance to establish a process to remove the mayor gets mixed reaction
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 7:16 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Some Anchorage residents feel that the assembly is trying to remove Mayor Dave Bronson from office, as things became a little heated at Tuesday night’s assembly meeting with the introduction of a proposed ordinance that amends the municipal code and establishes the process for removing a mayor from office for breach of the public’s trust.

The proposal was introduced by Assembly Vice chair Christopher Constant. Constant said there are already provisions in the municipal code for removing assembly and school board members. Now Constant wants to extend the code to the mayor’s office, and create a system of checks and balances that he described as “real and genuine.”

”For the last year there have just been a number of incidents the mayor has demonstrated an unwillingness to follow the customs, and traditions, and practices of a parliamentary body,” Constant said.

In recent months, Constant and other assembly members have expressed frustration with the mayor’s office for not following the approved assembly budget. The topic came to the forefront during the work sessions for the first quarter budget revisions.

“The guardrails are not high enough in our code, and they are not clear enough to demonstrate to the executive that he doesn’t have unilateral authority,” Constant said.

During the assembly meeting last night, assembly members Jamie Allard and Randy Sulte wanted the proposed ordinance to be postponed indefinitely. Sulte said he doesn’t like the way the proposal is written and some of the language in it.

“To develop something additional that again, seems a bit ambiguous in some spots is not what I joined the assembly to spend my time on,” Sulte said. “I joined very specifically to go after certain things.”

Some residents who attended the meeting expressed their own frustration for the agenda item, feeling the proposed ordinance is nothing more than a coup to remove Mayor Bronson. Sulte said he doesn’t think the proposed ordinance targets the mayor’s office, but that it would open the door for divisiveness and the perception of targeting the mayor.

”A percentage of the public does not trust the assembly, and they are going to look at nefarious outcomes and devious intentions for anything that we do, and we need to have more transparency around that,” said Sulte. “What they don’t like is this puts all the power in the assembly’s hands.”

The proposed ordinance has 13 provisions for which a mayor can be removed from office. Constant said some misinformation he wants to clear up about the proposed ordinance and municipal charter is it is not true that a “simple majority of the body could take action” against the mayor.

He said a simple majority could begin the process for the mayor to be removed from office but it is extensive. The ordinance involves an approved accusation document, reviewed by the municipal attorney or third party council , as well as identifying a mutually agreeable administrative hearing officer somewhere from within the Pacific Northwest.

“If the recommendation is affirmative that the administrative hearing officer — the judge — has found the mayor did violate the public trust, then a super majority, eight members, is required to implement that section of code,” Constant said.

He adds that the purpose of the proposal is not to remove Bronson from office, but to possibly send a message.

“The intent is that it’s forward looking, not retroactive,” Constant said. “It’s not about what has come in the past.”

The assembly passed the proposed ordinance Tuesday, which will now move onto a public hearing on May 24.

In statement from Mayor Bronson’s Deputy Communications Director Hans Rodvik, the administration stated:

“As evidenced by the outcry of residents to this ordinance at last night’s Assembly meeting, the Mayor firmly believes Assembly Member Constant has gone too far with his proposal. The Mayor fundamentally believes in the separation of powers doctrine that underpins our republican form of government. As the Chief Executive of this city, the Mayor has a duty and obligation to defend the powers of the executive branch and considers this ordinance an attack on the Office of the Mayor. The Mayor intends to use every tool at his disposal to protect the integrity of the office, and oppose Mr. Constant’s overreaching and draconian ordinance.

Removal of any elected official, especially when that removal is done by another branch of government, should be a last resort – a nuclear option – under our system of government. We have elections; we have referendums; we have recalls. All these options are preferred and are less divisive tools than impeaching and removing an elected official, which is what Mr. Constant’s ordinance allows. Mr. Constant’s ordinance will do nothing but divide our community further, and give enormous power to the Assembly, enabling them to remove ANY mayor (not just Mayor Bronson, but all future Mayors) for any reason the Assembly deems to be a “breach of public trust.”

In the nearly 50 years since Anchorage became a unified government, our community has never needed an ordinance like this. It’s clear this is a partisan and politically driven ordinance by a member of the Assembly seeking attention in their bid for Congress.

No Mayor should be subject to a coup by an Assembly that doesn’t agree with him politically. Mayor Bronson calls on the people of Anchorage to oppose AO 2022-60 and to let Assembly Member Constant know that he has gone too far.”

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