The former head of Anchorage’s equal opportunity office, who was fired after investigating allegations that the city’s deputy library director made racist comments, is suing Mayor Dave Bronson and his administration in federal court.
Heather MacAlpine served as the director of Anchorage’s Office of Equal Opportunity from 2015 to 2022. She was abruptly terminated as she looked into complaints made by employees against Deputy Library Director Judy Eledge, who served as the de facto head of the library for months.
MacAlpine sued the Bronson administration in state court in 2022 over the same allegations. For the federal complaint to go through, she had to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC granted her a right-to-sue letter in late November.
According to MacAlpine’s lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday, she was terminated last May as she was set to go over the complaints with the city’s human resources department, then headed by Niki Tshibaka.
Tshibaka had come under fire for wearing a T-shirt that stated “I’m with Judy” during a library advisory meeting and was eventually “walled off” by the city ombudsman from investigating complaints made by library employees. Tshibaka resigned Feb. 6.
According to MacAlpine’s lawsuit, library employees told her that Eledge — named JE in the federal lawsuit — made disparaging remarks against Alaska Native people, called a book about drag queens “filth” and threatened an employee with “wringing their neck” if they repeated her comments. She’s also alleged to have told employees, “I’m untouchable. No one can fire me in my position.”
Eledge created a hostile work environment and caused numerous library employees to quit, including among senior-level staff, the lawsuit says.
The federal lawsuit accuses Bronson of violating Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, which prohibits the retaliatory firing of an employee for opposing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
MacAlpine’s ongoing state lawsuit accuses the administration of wrongful termination.
Attorneys for MacAlpine are requesting that she be reinstated in her position, and receive back pay and legal and punitive damages as a result of her termination.
Bronson administration officials declined to comment on the lawsuit. MacAlpine’s lawyer also declined to comment. Eledge is still the deputy library director, and a new director was confirmed in December.