Anchorage Assembly chair says she has more questions after receiving records tied to alleged improper actions by mayor

A white woman with black hair and red glasses rests her chin on her hands in front fo a microphone
Suzanna LaFrance speaks at a June 2021 committee meeting of the Anchorage Assembly. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

The chair of the Anchorage Assembly, Suzanne LaFrance, said she has more questions for Mayor Bronson’s administration after the release of dozens of pages of text messages and emails tied to last year’s fluoride shut-off and the sudden retirement of the city’s police chief. 

Assembly leaders filed a request for the records in December after a political blog posted a story about several alleged improper actions by Mayor Dave Bronson.

The three allegations made by the Alaska Landmine in a Dec. 11 post were that Bronson had ordered police to leave the Assembly chambers during a raucous Oct. 7 meeting, that the mayor ordered the local water treatment facility to stop fluoridation and that the mayor requested then-Anchorage Police Chief Ken McCoy have officers “rescue” a man being treated for COVID-19 at a local hospital. It said the incidents led to McCoy’s retirement less than a year after he’d been promoted to lead the department. 

McCoy has not publicly explained his reasons for retiring. He has since taken a new job.

Assembly chair LaFrance said Assembly members didn’t file the records request solely because of the blog’s allegations. She said members heard similar concerns from the public that were consistent with the blog post. 

“It was conversations with police officials,” LaFrance said. “It was conversations and reports from other people close to the administration who did not want to come forward.” 

Prior to the records request being completed, at least one of the allegations was found to be true.

After initially denying it, Bronson officials later said that the mayor had ordered the fluoride turned off at the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility for several hours in early October. 

The records received by the Assembly last week include more than 55 pages of emails and text messages. They corroborate the fluoride allegation, but provide less information about the two issues involving police. 

Most of the records surrounding police at Assembly chambers include emails about providing security for additional meetings, but do not mention the mayor asking police to leave the chambers. LaFrance said she’s heard information to the contrary from police officials. 

In the records involving the COVID-19 patient, several pages of text messages show Mayor Bronson, McCoy and Municipal Manager Amy Demboski discussing a request from the man’s family to come visit him. But the texts do not go into much detail about an actual request for police involvement. 

The mayor’s office has previously told Alaska Public Media there was a discussion with Anchorage police and other officials about sending officers into a hospital after a state senator contacted the mayor. 

LaFrance said Assembly members needs to figure out next steps.

She expects them to “reconvene and take a look at some of those gaps — where we think that perhaps the administration might provide some more information.”

She said those gaps include the timeline on the fluoride issue as well as context involving the COVID-19 patient who was at the St. Elias Specialty Hospital. 

Officials from the mayor’s office did not respond to requests for comment about the records or Assembly concerns. However, in a letter attached to the records request, Municipal Manager Demboski asserted that “numerous events alleged in your records request never happened.” She later chastised the Assembly for making the request.

“I find the hundreds of employee hours it has taken to pull together this request, based on gossip and disinformation, is disappointing,” Demboski wrote. 

LaFrance said moving forward, she’s concerned about the history of the Bronson administration denying and later confirming events. That includes the fluoride allegation, as well as an attempt by Demboski to turn off the livestream of the Oct. 7 Assembly meeting, which the administration denied but records from the Anchorage Fire Department, who operate the livestream, showed was true. 

“I’m trying to withhold judgment, while reconciling these conflicting accounts which have not been sufficiently explained,” LaFrance said.  

At this point, LaFrance said she’s unsure if the Assembly will get additional information from the mayor’s office, or if other municipal employees will come forward with information about the allegations.

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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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