Anchorage Assembly approves contract for legal services in Demboski lawsuit

Anchorage Assembly approves contract for legal services in Demboski lawsuit
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 6:21 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly rejected a $550,000 settlement with former municipal manager Amy Demboski back in May. But now, it is saying yes to the retention of legal services after Demboski filed a lawsuit against the municipality earlier this month.

On Monday, the Assembly approved a $250,000 contract with the Anchorage law firm Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans and Filippi in the recently filed case of Demboski vs. the Municipality of Anchorage.

Assembly Chair Chris Constant said back in May it didn’t make sense for the Assembly to approve a settlement with the former municipal manager because all the Assembly had in front of them was a strongly worded letter from Demboski. No litigation had been filed.

“The reality is until there was an actual case, it didn’t feel acceptable to authorize settlement payment. And so now we have an actual case recorded into the court system, we have a different set of fundamentals on the ground, the filing was more specific than the letter, and so it’s more specific and it provides us an opportunity for a better conversation with the administration,” Constant said.

Constant said he imagines the parties involved will have settlement conversations in the future.

“I think it will just depend on the specific terms that the Assembly would need to see before we would be willing to appropriate the funds needed to settle,” Constant said.

If a settlement is reached, it could be more than the original figure that they had a chance to approve, Constant said.

“It’ll probably be more,” Constant said. “The reality is, any time you litigate, it gets more expensive. And that is a concern,” Constant said.

Demboski was Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s municipal manager until she was dismissed in December 2022. On Sept. 1, she filed a lawsuit against Bronson alleging violation of the Anchorage Whistleblowers Act as well as unlawful gender discrimination and wrongful termination, amid other claims.

But current Bronson chief-of-staff Mario Bird said he has enjoyed working for the mayor and cannot comment on Demboski’s experience.

“I feel blessed to be here, to serve him and the people of Anchorage, and as long as I’m here, if you want my opinion, I’m going to be here to do the best I can to serve the people and serve the mayor,” Bird said.

Bird said some people have the opinion that the Assembly missed an opportunity by not settling earlier with Demboski. He also acknowledged a future settlement could be much higher than the original figure.

But on Monday, the Bronson administration and the Assembly seemed to be in sync on approving the contract with Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans and Filippi.

“They’re very competent, they’ve been doing employment law both in the public and private sector for a long time. And this is a great choice for the muni,” Bird said.

Alaska’s News Source has reached out to Demboski and her lawyer Scott Kendall for comment but has not heard back at this time.