Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson is planning to pay a contractor millions of dollars in a settlement for work it did on a canceled homeless shelter and navigation center. However, leaders of the Assembly say its members must approve that settlement or it’s illegal.
The dispute goes back months. The Bronson administration admitted in October that it authorized Roger Hickel Contracting to spend roughly $4.9 million on building the East Anchorage shelter without getting Assembly approval, which is against city code.
The Assembly then effectively killed the project, when they voted against spending the money for the shelter.
Now the city wants to settle with the contractor for roughly $2.5 million for the work it already did. But Assembly vice chair Chris Constant says that can’t happen.
“The Assembly voted down that project in October, and that deappropriated the money,” Constant said. “The money was no longer in that capital account for that project.”
The city disagrees. In a memo to the Assembly Friday, acting municipal manager Kent Kohlhase said the Assembly appropriated the money to spend on the shelter in May, and that means the city can use those funds to settle with the contractor.
In a response letter, Assembly leaders wrote that “making the proposed payment without additional Assembly action would be illegal.” In December, the Assembly passed an ordinance that requires its approval for city settlements that pay out more than $50,000.
Constant says the city can still issue the settlement to Roger Hickel Contracting, but the Assembly has to approve it first.
“The expectation is that they’ll bring a resolution before us that sets out the terms that they believe are right,” Constant said. “We haven’t even seen the invoices. We haven’t seen any evidence that the work was done. All we have are promises.”
In his memo, Kohlhase wrote that the Assembly can request to see relevant documents from the contractor. A spokesman for the mayor said the administration is working on a formal response to the Assembly’s letter.
Constant says that if Bronson decides to issue the check to the contractor without Assembly approval, it would be a “knowing violation of the public trust.”