Anchorage Assembly looks into vetting future mayoral appointments following health director’s fabricated resume

Former Anchorage Health Director Joe Gerace oversees the shuttering of the Sullivan Arena mass shelter on June 30, 2022. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly is weighing its options following a report from Alaska Public Media and American Public Media showing that the city’s health director fabricated many parts of his resume, including overstating and misrepresenting his education and military background.

Joe Gerace has since resigned as the head of Anchorage’s Health Department, and Mayor Dave Bronson says his municipal manager and HR director are investigating Gerace’s hiring

But, at an Assembly rules committee meeting Thursday, West Anchorage Assembly member Kameron Perez-Verdia said he doesn’t trust the Bronson administration to investigate itself. 

“I absolutely believe that we need to have an independent investigation to understand what was done — what processes were used and not used,” Perez-Verdia said. “I think it’s really important that all of the appointments that came forth under this administration be reviewed again, and that we know the facts.”

During the meeting, members of the Assembly compiled questions they wanted answered about Gerace’s hiring. They boiled down to three main issues: how Gerace was hired with a fraudulent resume, what happened as a result of his hiring and what could be done to prevent a situation like his from occurring again.

The Assembly is also exploring the legality and practicality of vetting mayoral appointments themselves. Eagle River Assembly member Kevin Cross described the current system for vetting candidates as broken.

“What are our options to do other vetting, whether we have to, or whether the administration has to hire an outside firm to take over these screenings, until we know what the problem is,” Cross said. “Or do we continue to use the same failed system until we figure out what’s wrong with it?”

During the meeting, one person gave public testimony. Barbara Bachmeier said, as a veteran, she was appalled that Gerace would lie about serving in the military. Gerace claimed he’d served in five combat tours and was a Lt. Col. in the National Guard, both of which he later admitted weren’t true.

“And so the bottom line that I assert right now is that somebody needs to be fired,” Bachmeier said. “And that somebody needs to be the HR director. I don’t know how that process can go, but he has shown that he is derelict in the duties that are described in that position.”

Anchorage HR director Niki Tshibaka had previously dismissed complaints made about Gerace’s credentials, calling them “inaccurate” and “a character assassination” ahead of Gerace’s confirmation. He has yet to answer questions publicly this week about Gerace’s hiring. Tshibaka is the husband of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka.

There were no members of the Bronson administration present at the rules committee meeting Thursday to answer questions.

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