The Anchorage Assembly has unanimously confirmed Uluao “Junior” Aumavae to be the city’s chief equity officer.
Aumavae was hired by Mayor Dave Bronson in October after the mayor fired Clifford Armstrong III without Assembly approval. The job focuses on promoting equity by ensuring hiring and contracting are fair and represent the diverse perspectives of Anchorage.
During an impromptu confirmation hearing Tuesday night, Aumavae highlighted the work he’s already accomplished.
“One of those things that we’ve done to diversify our workforce and be able to go into those communities like Fairview, like Mountain View, and hold these job fairs to have them be more accessible to the communities,” Aumavae said. “We had one a couple weeks ago. We look to have that annually.”
He also talked about his work organizing relief efforts for the island nation of Tonga following last month’s tsunami. Bronson says that Aumavae is Anchorage’s highest-ranking government employee of Polynesian descent.
Aumavae’s confirmation comes as a lawsuit over the chief equity officer position is ongoing.
According to the law that created the position, 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, which did not happen with Armstrong. Bronson sued the Assembly in December, claiming that the law establishing the position was illegal and he should be able to fire any department head, without cause.
An item on the Assembly’s agenda would have delayed Aumavae’s confirmation, yet allow him to serve in an acting role until the lawsuit was settled.
During his report to the Assembly Tuesday night, Bronson asked the Assembly to immediately vote to confirm Aumavae.
“Any attempts to stall his confirmation are purely partisan political attacks that do nothing to unite our community,” Bronson said.
Attorney Bill Falsey, representing the Assembly in the suit, says the lawsuit is ongoing, and oral arguments in the case could happen as early as April.
In a separate lawsuit, Armstrong sued Bronson, claiming that he was fired illegally. The mayor’s office ended up paying Armstrong $125,000 in a settlement.