Anchorage Assembly rejects $550K Demboski legal settlement, opts to pay out MacAlpine

side by side portraits of two women
Former Anchorage Municipal Manager Amy Demboski, left, and former Anchorage Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity Heather MacAlpine both think they were illegally fired from their positions by Mayor Dave Bronson. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday rejected paying more than half-a-million dollars toward a settlement with former Municipal Manager Amy Demboski, who alleged she was fired by Mayor Dave Bronson in retaliation for speaking out against several unethical and unlawful actions by his administration.

But the body unanimously agreed to pay $277,500 for a legal settlement with another former employee, Heather MacAlpine, who also alleged she was fired illegally.

Most community members who testified at the Assembly’s Tuesday night meeting opposed paying both settlements, which totaled $827,500. Resident William Burke said it’s unfair to make taxpayers bear the financial brunt of city leaders’ actions.

“The average property taxes in Anchorage is $3,500 a household,” he said. “I’m a lifelong conservative… 232 households are going to have to pay for this.”

The largest of the two proposed settlements was for Demboski — $550,000, close to four times her annual city salary of $140,000. Mayor Bronson fired Demboski in December. In a scathing letter, she alleged numerous illegal and unethical activities by the mayor’s administration, including illegal contracting, creating a hostile work environment and directing work on the proposed East Anchorage shelter without Assembly approval.

She demanded a written apology and a settlement to avoid going to court.

Assembly vice chair Meg Zaletel said she was frustrated about having to weigh the payouts over alleged actions by the mayor and his administration. However, she warned that going to court could be more costly. 

“We have to weigh the pros and the cons of what this could cost, what the Demboski allegations could cost, if it were to be litigated, against this settlement,” Zaletel said.

South Anchorage Assembly member Zac Johnson opposed paying Demboski, and said it’s important for the facts of her claims to come out in court.

“It’s hard to put a price tag on the truth, and the reality is that I believe if we settle this today, then that is the end of the question, and the veracity of Ms. Demboski’s claims will never be tested,” he said. “I don’t know if everything she alleged actually happened, but whether it did or didn’t matters to me. If her claims were false, let’s establish that. But if they’re true then we also need to know that.”

Zaletel, a lawyer, pushed back on the idea that going to court would “reveal the truth” of Demboski’s claims.

“I just disagree, having litigated a lot of cases,” she said. “Lawsuits do not produce the truth. Lawsuits produced carefully crafted narratives meant to win or defend cases.”

Assembly members ultimately voted 8-4 in opposition to paying for Demboski’s settlement, with Zaletel, Kevin Cross, Randy Sulte and Scott Myers in favor.

Scott Kendall, an attorney representing Demboski, said Wednesday that he and his client are disappointed at the rejection of the settlement. He said taking the matter to court will likely cost the city much more money. 

“It seems like the Assembly members who voted against the settlement with Ms. Demboski seem to not understand how the legal system actually works,” Kendall said. “Cases and strong claims are routinely settled based on demand letters. That’s the best way to resolve a case quickly, and with the least cost to the taxpayers.”

On whether Demboski will actually sue, Kendall said he and his client are “certainly going to have that discussion.” 

Kendall also expressed concern that the actions from the Assembly could dissuade other whistleblowers from coming forward.  

“They’re telling the next whistleblower who comes along from inside an administration, ‘We won’t have your back.’ They’re telling them that both sides will victimize you,” Kendall said. “And I think it’s almost certain that in the future, whistleblowers are going to think about this and they’re probably going to keep their heads down and suffer in silence.”

Officials with the Bronson administration did not respond to requests for comment on the voting down of Demboski’s settlement. 

Meanwhile, there was less debate Tuesday night over paying a settlement to Heather MacAlpine, the city’s former director of the Office of Equal Opportunity. The settlement totaled just over $270,000. It comes almost a year after she sued Bronson’s administration for wrongful termination. She alleged her firing was in retaliation for investigating workplace complaints against the mayor’s ally and former library deputy director Judy Eledge. 

East Anchorage member George Martinez voted against settling with Demboski, but in favor of the MacAlpine payout. He said MacAlpine’s case is different since she’d already filed lawsuits in state and federal court, and had a strong claim.

“The environment that Ms. MacAlpine had to endure was not acceptable,” Martinez said. “It should never be acceptable within any portion of our municipality to have people feel so disrespected and unsafe.”

Assembly members approved the settlement unanimously. 

According to the settlement agreement signed by MacAlpine, the money — which totals roughly three times her former salary of about $90,000 — does not prevent her from filing a charge or participating in an investigation by the federal Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission. MacAlpine currently works in the Anchorage ombudsman’s office.

The Assembly also unanimously approved an ordinance requiring that information on legal settlements made against the city be made public, including the nature, amounts and people involved. That would include settlements made in the future and for the last year.

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

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