Anchorage Assembly delays confirmation vote on health director following reports about workplace behavior

Anchorage's acting health director Joe Gerace poses for a photo outside of the Sullivan Arena shelter
Anchorage’s acting health director Joe Gerace after a walkthrough tour of the Sullivan Arena shelter on Nov. 1, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly postponed the confirmation vote for Municipal Health Director Joe Gerace.

Gerace was appointed by Mayor Dave Bronson in September after his first pick for the position, David Morgan, resigned shortly before his confirmation hearing.

Assembly members said they received several emails Tuesday ahead of the Assembly meeting that raised questions over personnel issues with Gerace at his previous workplace, Visit Healthcare.

Member Austin Quinn-Davidson said she was impressed with Gerace’s job so far as health director, but the emails needed to be addressed.

“I think he’s on the ground a lot. You can tell he’s a hard worker,” Quinn-Davidson said. “We received some pretty serious emails today from a variety of people that gave me pause.”

Alaska Public Media obtained copies of emails sent to the Assembly. Two were from former colleagues of Gerace’s when he was director of operations for Visit Healthcare, the city’s main testing and vaccine provider. Both emails describe instances of favoritism in hiring by Gerace, and say he created an unprofessional working environment.  

At the meeting, Bronson’s head of human resources Niki Tshibaka asked for Gerace to be allowed to address the allegations right then and there. 

“We have plenty of evidence to share with the public and with the Assembly,” Tshibaka said. “He is not afraid to address the issues that have been raised, head-on, because they are false, they are inaccurate, and they are a pure character assassination.”

The Assembly opted to discuss the matter at a Friday executive session, since the body does not normally discuss personnel issues in public.

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org.

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