Anchorage Assembly pursues litigation for release of investigative report

Anchorage Assembly presses mayoral administration to release investigative report
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 8:24 AM AKST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2023 at 2:50 PM AKST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage Assembly leadership pressed Mayor Dave Bronson Tuesday to release the results of an investigative report completed by the mayor’s administration that looked into how the former municipal health director was hired, despite a fabricated resume.

The resolution asks Assembly counsel to pursue litigation to “compel the release of the requested subpoenaed records” that are currently withheld by the Bronson administration.

Assembly members passed the resolution 11-1, with South Anchorage representative Randy Sulte being the lone “no” vote.

“Unfortunately, it’s going to court,” Midtown representative Meg Zaletel said. “And it is, as (Assembly Chair Suzanne) LaFrance said, sad to be here and sad to be in this position that in order to get transparency and openness from the municipal government, it has to go to court.

“But if we don’t do it, then it’s all shrouded in mystery forever.”

The Bronson administration has previously been subpoenaed by the Assembly to release records of the investigation into how Joe Gerace, the former municipal health director, was hired despite having a fabricated resume that included false degrees and exaggerated military experience.

The meeting came amid a flurry of controversial events; most recently the resignation of municipal Human Resources Director Niki Tshibaka, who called the current work environment between the Assembly and mayoral administration “increasingly toxic, hostile, and demoralizing,” after roughly a 1 1/2 years on the job.

With the mayor present, there were big accusations and big questions early on.

“I’d like to give you an opportunity to respond to those — not the HR issues — but the issues of the fact that your administration is crumbling,” West Anchorage representative Kameron Perez-Verdia said. “And I’d like to hear from you, as to what’s going on and what you’re doing about it. That’s the first question — the second question is, have you seriously considered resigning?”

“Through the chair, I have not considered resigning in any way, in any fashion whatsoever,” Bronson later responded.

Bronson stated on social media earlier Tuesday that Tshibaka resigned from his role in the administration, contrasting speculation that he was fired.

Bronson responded to the requested release of the Gerace investigation report by repeating that all investigations conducted by the municipality contain privacy laws that his administration would adhere to.

“As to the issues you are reading about in the media, we are, I think, prepared to have a work session on that, if you are prepared for that,” Bronson said. “But again, we’re not going to talk about this matter, these HR matters in a public forum.”

Blair Christensen, who announced her resignation as Anchorage’s acting municipal attorney on Jan. 24, echoed Bronson in denying the release of the report due to privacy concerns.

“Our response is that we don’t have the right to waive anyone’s Constitutional right to privacy,” Christiansen said. “That would take a court order to balance the privacy interests.”

Christensen said previously that her final day on the job will be Feb. 8.

The Assembly went to an executive session Jan. 24 to review the documents that came from the Gerace investigation. LaFrance said the report they saw lacked details that “would help our municipality understand and move beyond this troubling issue.”

Correction: This article has been corrected to reflect that a successor for Christensen has not been named. A previous version of this story said Mario Bird was announced by Bronson as her appointed successor.