Anchorage Assembly overrides Bronson’s veto of process for removing a mayor

Anchorage Assembly member Chris Constant addresses members of the media at the Loussac Library on June 7, 2022. Constant authored the ordinance that allows for the Assembly to remove a mayor for a breach of public trust. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly has overridden Mayor Dave Bronson’s veto of an ordinance that gives the Assembly a process for removing a mayor for a breach of public trust. 

The Assembly voted 9-3 to override the mayor’s veto at a brief meeting Monday afternoon.

Assembly member Chris Constant, who represents North Anchorage, wrote the ordinance. He said it’s meant to be used for extreme abuses of power.

“A pattern of behavior that rises to the level of abuse, that regular people would look and ask, ‘How could this person do such a thing?” Constant said. “That it’s unconscionable that that action should have taken place.”

Under the ordinance, there are a dozen offenses that would constitute a breach of public trust, including perjury, asking a municipal employee to break the law and falsifying records. 

The new ordinance does not get rid of the ability for Alaskans to organize a recall, it just adds another avenue for a mayor to be removed. Constant said it creates a set of clear boundaries for what is and what is not acceptable by a mayor. 

“This ordinance is not intended to be implemented,” Constant said. “It is intended to be on the books, should the need arise.”

The Assembly initially approved the ordinance last month after weeks of debate across multiple meetings. Bronson, who called the measure a partisan attack, vetoed it several days later.  

In a statement Monday, Bronson said the ordinance would create public distrust and discord.

“The actions in this ordinance will set a precedent that will forever change how municipal government is administered,” Bronson said. “This ordinance is clearly a partisan effort to attack the executive branch because this Assembly doesn’t agree with my administration’s policies.” 

Assembly members Jamie Allard, Randy Sulte and Kevin Cross voted against the override. 

Cross, who represents Eagle River, said he thinks the removal process gives the Assembly too much power in deciding who’s mayor.

“I see a direct conflict of interest that the people who remove them are the people that can stick their own person in there,” Cross said.

According to the ordinance, the legal process to remove the mayor will require approval of an accusation document by the Assembly or municipal board of ethics, followed by a legal review conducted by the municipal attorney or a neutral third-party attorney. If the accusations are found to be valid, the mayor can have an attorney defend them against the charges.

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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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