Anchorage officials scrutinize allegations of Mayor Bronson’s illegal activities

Assembly Chair LaFrance says administration illegally approved sole-source contracts
Assembly Chair LaFrance says administration illegally approved sole-source contracts
Assembly Chair LaFrance says administration illegally approved sole-source contracts
Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 6:11 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage municipal officials say they’re in shock after receiving a wrongful termination letter on Wednesday from former Municipal Manager Amy Demboski’s attorney, accusing Mayor Dave Bronson of several past instances of unethical and illegal behavior.

“The assertions it contained were stunning,” Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance said.

The letter, addressed to Bronson and copied to the Anchorage Assembly and Municipal Ombudsman Darrel Hess, was submitted by attorney Scott Kendall, who represents Demboski.

Bronson abruptly fired Demboski last December. Demboski says it was because she confronted him about his unlawful activities.

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

Demboski detailed several allegations within the letter, including how Bronson pushed for the signing of sole-source contracts that were valued at over $30,000. Such contacts normally require Assembly approval. Demboski provided LaFrance with five of those contracts.

“These are contracts that, per code, required assembly approval,” LaFrance said. “They were issued without assembly approval in violation of the code, and the code is law, so they were issued in violation of the law.”

Alaska’s News Source received copies of those contracts which indicate they were all for vehicle purchases with Continental Motor Company located at 5115 Old Seward Highway.

The amount of the contracts totaled more than $190,000, and each was approved on the same day, Aug. 24, 2021.

Instead of the assembly approving them, they were authorized by the city’s purchasing director, Rachelle Alger.

“The community is entitled to an explanation from the mayor,” LaFrance said.

“This was not a sole source, therefore it did not require Assembly approval or notification,” Alger said in an email Thursday. “This was an Open Market Procedure of which a legal opinion was sought prior to execution. This sourcing was done in accordance with code, and in accordance with legal advice. This matter you’re referring to has been investigated by the Ombudsman, communicated to the Assembly, and has been cleared by the ombudsman.”

However, LaFrance says those contracts still needed approval.

“As they were over $30k, assembly approval was required,” LaFrance said in an email. “The procurements were not reported to the assembly. If they were competitively bid then they were done wrong, as the required bids were not included in the memo.”

Late Thursday afternoon, Alaska’s News Source received documentation of many contracts dating back to Nov. 7 2022.

“Information about contracts and financial information, purchasing information needs to be absolutely public,” LaFrance said. “It has not been public.”

LaFrance says the assembly has limited authority and can’t force the mayor to do anything. She now plans to seek outside advice on how to handle the situation.

“We’re in unprecedented territory here,” LaFrance said. “I want to hear from the mayor, I am very worried.”

A spokesperson for Bronson said that they would look into this issue. Municipal Ombudsman Darrel Hess said that the contracts may have been issued incorrectly due to an error made by a new staff employee.

LaFrance says the city must remain focused on maintaining daily operations while restoring the public’s confidence. She says the assembly has considered several options such as hiring an outside company to review city contracts, along with conducting their own independent audit, which is something LaFrance said the assembly plans to discuss in the coming weeks.