Ousted Anchorage municipal manager says termination was ‘retaliation’

Demboski says she expressed concerns that Sullivan capacity was ‘violation of municipal law’
Ousted Anchorage municipal manager says termination was ‘retaliation’
Published: Dec. 20, 2022 at 6:32 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The former municipal manager of Anchorage is speaking out after suddenly being replaced on Monday. Amy Demboski, who served as the city’s municipal manager since July 2021, claims she was fired due to retaliation from Mayor Dave Bronson.

Demboski said her municipal manager duties have never been easy, but lately, they’ve been especially difficult.

“It really has become a toxic environment,” Demboski said.

Demboski says things got worse when she arrived to work Monday and was given the option of retiring with a letter of recommendation or face termination. Demboski says she chose to be terminated since she did nothing wrong.

“I love my job,” Demboski said. “I had no intention of leaving, of leaving it, I love my job.”

Demboski says she built a career on serving the public, but when she questioned some of Bronson’s recent activities, it ended her career. Demboski says she was fired because of an email she sent to Bronson last Wednesday with the subject line, “Concerns and/or Guidance.”

“The concerns that I raised directly to the mayor, I believe that’s the reason I was terminated,” Demboski said. “I think it was retaliation.”

Demboski’s email to Bronson pointed out several instances she felt were in violation of the city charter, thereby exposing Anchorage to legal risks. She felt it was her job to notify Bronson of those issues, even when he was the one at fault.

“I followed the law. If there were challenges or things that came to me that potentially deviated from municipal code, I did what I could to get it back into compliance with code,” Demboski said.

Those issues included the Sullivan Arena, which is the city’s main winter shelter for those who are experiencing homelessness.

In the email, Demboski writes, “the warming shelter inside the Sullivan Arena is in violation of the 200-capacity limitation the Assembly set and thereby a violation of municipal law. You (and Adam separately) both acknowledged that you knew it was illegal and were doing it anyway because you had a moral obligation to ensure no one froze to death.”

Adam Trombley is the mayor’s chief of staff.

Demboski’s email to Bronson continues, “... you indicated you intentionally did not come to me with the direction to exceed capacity because you knew I would not ‘do it,’ so you did it yourself and ordered Alexis to do it.”

Alexis Johnson was appointed by the mayor to manage homeless issues in Anchorage.

Demboski’s email questions the legality of packing 360 people into Sullivan Arena and expresses concern about how to pay for things like snacks and drinks for those additional people. Her email also addresses problems with contracts.

Demboski’s email goes on to refer to her, “... discussions (with the mayor) about errors on contracts, contracts that were executed in violation of code.”

Efforts to speak with Bronson about Demboski’s departure were unsuccessful. His staff declined to comment, saying this was a “personnel matter.” Meanwhile, Demboski maintains she was only doing her job and questions why she would be fired for exposing the truth.

“I try to follow the law, I try to be a team builder, I try to support people that I get to work with and, frankly, I just love my community and I love the opportunity to serve,” Demboski said. “It truly was the gift of a lifetime and, for me, I’ll treasure it.”

Public Works Director Kent Kohlhase has now been appointed acting municipal manager.