Kenai Peninsula Borough won’t say if Pierce resignation is linked to recent HR investigation

A man in a suit gives a talk at a microphone.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce in 2018. (Aaron Bolton / KBBI)

The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s legal department said it hired an Anchorage law firm to perform a confidential human resources investigation last month.

Borough Attorney Sean Kelley sent its contract with the firm in an email to reporters Sunday but declined to share many other details, including whether the legal services had anything to do with Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce, who’s stepping down next month.

Pierce announced his resignation Friday, saying he wanted to focus on his bid for governor. The announcement came days after the Borough Assembly held two executive sessions “regarding litigation strategy on a specific legal matter that may have an immediate adverse effect upon the finances of the borough.”

Assembly members say they cannot talk about the meetings. Unlike other assembly meetings, executive sessions aren’t open to the public.

And in his email, Kelley said he also could not comment on any confidential internal investigations. He added there is no settlement agreement that required Pierce to resign, as the political blog The Alaska Landmine claimed.

Pierce told conservative radio host Michael Dukes Monday morning that the allegations made in that story and others were irresponsible and speculative.

Pierce has not responded to requests for comment about his resignation.

Kelley did say that in July, the borough began a contract with Anchorage law firm Ashburn & Mason to conduct a “confidential, internal” human resources investigation. Kelley said that investigation was completed that month.

The fee contract is dated July 14 and specifies a billing rate of $350 per hour. It does not say what the work is about.

Any money allocated by the borough in a legal settlement would first have to go through the assembly.

In 2019, the borough paid a $150,000 settlement to a former human resources director, who alleged Pierce fired her after she received a terminal cancer diagnosis.

[Sign up for Alaska Public Media’s daily newsletter to get our top stories delivered to your inbox.]

Previous articleAlaska News Nightly: Monday, August 29, 2022
Next articleJuneau police are collecting DNA samples from people with certain past convictions