Anchorage Clerk Resigns As Investigation Mounts

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Anchorage Municipal Clerk Barbara Gruenstein has resigned. Her resignation comes after nearly two months of controversy surrounding the April 3 Municipal Election.

Municipal Clerk Barbara Gruenstein submitted her resignation Tuesday. Assembly Chair Ernie Hall says Gruenstein resigned because she believed the problems of the April 3 election had caused officials to doubt her effectiveness. He says he did not ask her to resign but understands why she did.

“If we feel we dropped the ball in doing our job, we immediately ask of ourselves, ‘do the people that we work for question my ability to do this?’ I think it’s more of a question that you probe of yourself. But I think what happened in this election is what we see occur in a lot of jobs that we do over and over and over. And the more times that you do it and it turns out perfectly, the more you tend to be a little more lax,” Hall said.

The Municipal Election was fraught with problems. An Election Commission report blamed the Clerk’s Office, supervised by Gruenstein, for not distributing enough ballots. More than half of precincts ran out of ballots. Some voters said they were denied the right to vote. Assembly Chair Hall fired Deputy Clerk Jacqueline Duke on May 9.

She was responsible, in part, for organizing the election. The Anchorage Assembly has appointed a retired judge to pinpoint what went wrong during the election. His report, due out by June 28, will be used as a guide to improve future elections. Hall says Gruenstien will likely be replaced by an interim municipal clerk who is already a municipal employee. The interim clerk will serve until the search for a permanent clerk is completed. Gruenstein has agreed to stay with the clerk’s office through the end of June to ensure a smooth transition. Hall says Gruenstein will be hard to replace.

“She’s going to leave some very big shoes to fill. She’s been an incredible, incredible servant to the city,” Hall said.

Gruenstein did not return calls for this story. In her letter of resignation she said it was with a “sad heart” that she offered her resignation and that she believed she was leaving a legacy that had, quote, “created greater public access to the workings of government.” Gruenstein has served as Anchorage Municipal Clerk for nine years.

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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.

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