Anchorage Assembly to hire a lawyer for help with ‘separation of powers’ at Loussac

The Anchorage Assembly Chambers in the Loussac Library on Jan. 26, 2021. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly voted Tuesday to enter a legal contract with a firm to sort out separation of powers issues between the Assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration.

The motion, introduced by chair Suzanne LaFrance, describes several instances where members of the mayor’s staff were “asserting control over the Loussac Library grounds.” At a recent Assembly meeting the mayor’s administration removed the plexiglass shield separating those testifying from the Assembly. Mayor Bronson also removed security guards from the Assembly chambers during a meeting.

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The contract, not to exceed $50,000, was awarded to Birch Horton Bittner and Cherot. Assembly members Jamie Allard and Crystal Kennedy, both representing the Eagle River and Chugiak area, expressed concerns over the chosen firm, because Bill Falsey would be the lead attorney. Falsey is the former municipal manager and municipal attorney and ran for mayor against Bronson in the last election. Municipal attorney Dean Gates told members that the Assembly already granted Falsey an exemption in August that cleared him to work with the Assembly, despite leaving his municipal position recently.

The motion passed 8 to 2.

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The motion did not garner any commentary from Bronson’s staff. Most members of the senior staff, including the mayor, municipal manager Amy Demboski and municipal attorney Patrick Bergt did not attend Tuesday night’s meeting. Both Bergt and Demboski tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, leading to the cancellation of a meeting that day. The mayor’s administration says staff who were in contact with either person who tested positive are following municipal quarantine and testing protocols. Only three assembly members attended in-person: Chris Constant, John Weddleton and Meg Zaletel. All other members participated by phone.  

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Wesley is a reporter for Alaska Public Media, covering primarily city government and Anchorage life. He previously worked at Alaska Public Media as a web editor, producer and education reporter before a two-year stint in Kotzebue, AK as News Director for KOTZ-AM.

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