Assembly leaders say firing of chief equity officer was not legal

a man poses for a portrait in a city area
Chief Equity Officer Clifford Armstrong poses for a portrait in downtown Anchorage near City Hall on April 28th, 2021. (Hannah Lies/Alaska Public Media)

Leaders of the Anchorage Assembly say Clifford Armstrong III is still the city’s chief equity officer, despite Mayor Dave Bronson firing him earlier this month. 

In a letter to the city attorney and chief of staff, Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance and Vice Chair Chris Constant say that the firing was not legally valid. 

They cite city code requires that the chief equity officer only be fired if there is a shown cause and with approval of the majority of the Assembly. The letter says that neither of those conditions were met. 

“As a matter of law Mr. Armstrong is still the Chief Equity Officer of the Municipality. He continues to be employed until there is a showing of cause for his dismissal, communicated to the Assembly, and by majority vote the body concurs with the dismissal,” the letter says. 

The position is designed to promote equity by making sure hiring and contracting is fair and representative of Anchorage’s diversity. The position was approved by the Assembly last year and Armstrong began working in April. The position pays $115,000 per year. 

Corey Allen Young, a spokesperson for the Bronson administration, wrote in an email that Armstrong’s firing was “complete, valid and legal.”  

“As Section 5.02 states in the City Charter, ‘Persons appointed by the mayor serve at the pleasure of the mayor.’ As stated previously, we do not discuss personnel matters as per HR policy,” he wrote.

After his firing, Armstrong told Alaska Public Media that he believed his firing was related to a report he wrote in September that highlighted what he saw were inequitable hiring practices of the city. 

Bronson appointed Uluao “Junior” Aumavae to replace Armstrong. Aumavae is a former community outreach specialist for the Drug Enforcement Agency. 

This story has been updated with a comment from the Bronson administration.

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Lex Treinen covers culture, homelessness, politics and corrections for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@alaskapublic.org.