The Anchorage Assembly has set a public hearing for May 23 on a measure to authorize spending up to $827,500 on possible legal settlements with two former city employees who have accused the mayor of illegally firing them.
Details of the underlying settlements the Assembly members are considering are not public, though the spending process is. The Assembly met for roughly two hours behind closed doors on Friday to hear legal advice about the settlements before setting the public bearing date.
To reporters Friday after the meeting, Assembly Chair Chris Constant suggested the body will have to awkwardly sing and dance around confidentiality issues at that hearing.
“It should be very interesting,” he said.
The Assembly set the money aside for the settlements last month. The Assembly’s action at that time also indicated the money could be used for a settlement with a construction contractor that began work on a municipal homeless shelter last year. The Assembly suspended that project after it came to light that the administration unlawfully authorized the work without Assembly approval.
But Friday’s meeting and the proposed payout measure is specifically for former employees Amy Demboski and Heather MacAlpine, and not Roger Hickel Contracting.
Mayor Dave Bronson fired Municipal Manager Amy Demboski in December. Through an attorney, she made a lengthy list of allegations against the mayor ranging from knowingly ordering official actions beyond his legal authority, to fostering a toxic and misogynistic workplace. She thinks she was fired for pushing back against the mayor.
Demboski has not sued, but asked for a written apology and settlement to avoid a court battle.
Bronson fired Heather MacAlpine last year from her position as director of the Office of Equal Opportunity. She’s suing for wrongful termination in state and federal courts and alleges her firing was retaliation for investigating workplace complaints against Bronson ally and current library deputy director Judy Eledge.
Constant said the May 23 public hearing will be about whether or not the Assembly should authorize money to settle Demboski and MacAlpine’s claims.
Bronson has not publicly explained either firing, or the wider procession of executives that have resigned or been fired from his administration, or general concerns about his competence. He has repeatedly said he would not, due to confidentiality rules around personnel matters and on legal advice.
Separately, Roger Hickel Contracting is also suing the city. It wants to be paid at least $2.5 million for the work it did on the now suspended shelter project at Tudor and Elmore roads.
The city has already paid out $125,000 to settle a previous wrongful termination lawsuit under Bronson. Last year, the city paid former chief equity officer Cliff Armstrong III to settle his wrongful termination lawsuit, though a judge later decided Bronson had acted within his rights when he fired Armstrong without cause in 2021.