Disgraced former Anchorage health director accused of defrauding state militia

Joe Gerace talks with people in front of dumpsters in front of the Sullivan Arena shelter
Former Anchorage health director Joe Gerace meets with journalists outside of the Sullivan Arena shelter on Nov. 1, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

The state of Alaska wants more than $60,000 back from Anchorage’s disgraced former health director, saying he fraudulently claimed a higher military rank than he actually had when he joined the Alaska State Defense Force.

Former Anchorage Health Director Joe Gerace has been charged with one civil count of fraudulent misrepresentation. Gerace has been the subject of controversy since he resigned as the head of Anchorage’s Health Department last August shortly before an Alaska Public Media and American Public Media report showed he had lied on his resume, including about his medical, educational and military credentials.

In a civil complaint filed last month, a lawyer for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs says Gerace also misrepresented himself when he applied for membership in the Alaska State Defense Force in 2020. Gerace served in the defense force until last year. The ASDF is a volunteer organization that’s part of the state’s official militia. Its members are paid when the governor calls on them to respond to emergencies.

The complaint says Gerace told the ASDF that he had been a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, which wasn’t true and resulted in him getting paid more than he should have. 

Reached by phone Thursday, Gerace said he was recruited by the ASDF. He said he didn’t know what rank was reported on his application, because he said he didn’t have a copy. He maintained he did nothing wrong. 

“I did not submit any fraudulent documents that I am aware of to the ASDF,” he said.

Gerace claimed it’s not uncommon for members of the ASDF to be given ranks higher than what they held in regular military service.

But the complaint says members are given rankings and payment according to their rank in one of the country’s military branches.

A representative for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs declined to comment on Gerace’s tenure or the complaint.

According to the complaint, Gerace participated in election support work and the COVID-19 response with the ASDF, for a total of 203 days. Because Gerace claimed rank of lieutenant colonel, he got paid $94,783.69 by the state, said the complaint. However, records show that Gerace had actually earned the rank of E-4, a much lower specialist ranking. The attorney for the state says under that rank in the ASDF, Gerace should’ve been paid $33,207.60.

The state is requesting that Gerace pay the state back the $61,576.09 difference between what he should’ve earned, and what he did. The complaint says the state sent a letter to Gerace in September asking for the money, but that payment has not been made.

Gerace said he expects more will come out in court.

Gerace is also the subject of several inquiries by Anchorage government officials. The Anchorage Assembly subpoenaed city Human Resources director Niki Tshibaka this week to testify about his role in the hiring, vetting and investigation of Gerace. Additionally, this year the city’s internal auditing department plans to look into contracts that were approved during Gerace’s tenure as health director. 

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Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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