Bronson sues Anchorage Assembly over his right to fire chief equity officer

Dave Bronson speaks with the media
Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson speaks with journalists after a special Anchorage Assembly meeting on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. The Assembly voted to override Bronson’s veto of its emergency mask ordinance. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson is suing the Assembly over his right to fire the city’s chief equity officer. Bronson filed a legal complaint in state Superior Court on Friday. 

In his lawsuit, Bronson is asking the court to establish that the Anchorage mayor can fire the chief equity officer as he would any other department head, meaning he can dismiss them without specific reason and without Assembly approval. 

The lawsuit stems from Bronson’s firing of Clifford Armstrong III in October.

Armstrong was hired in April to serve as the city’s first chief equity officer. The job focuses on promoting equity by ensuring hiring and contracting is fair and represents the diverse perspectives of Anchorage.  

RELATED: Anchorage Assembly begins inquiry after blog alleges ‘improper demands’ were made on police chief

The Assembly created the position in 2020. And it said the chief equity officer can only be dismissed by the mayor if there is documented cause for termination and if a majority of the Assembly agrees.

But Bronson fired Armstrong without Assembly approval, citing his authority under municipal code to dismiss the heads of departments without cause. 

Assembly leadership says it won’t recognize Armstrong’s firing because Bronson didn’t follow city code about the job. 

RELATED: Assembly leaders say firing of chief equity officer was not legal

Now, Bronson wants the state court to rule that the law establishing the chief equity officer job violates the state constitution and municipal charter. He argues that the Assembly is overstepping its authority.

The Assembly has hired its own attorney to represent it in matters dealing with separation of powers, including Bronson’s lawsuit. The Assembly’s attorney, Bill Falsey, did not immediately return a request for comment Monday. Falsey formerly worked as municipal manager under Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and ran for Anchorage mayor earlier this year.

Armstrong has also filed a lawsuit against the Bronson administration for wrongful termination. 

Bronson hired Uluao “Junior” Aumavae to replace Armstrong.

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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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