Anchorage Mayor Bronson sued by former city manager for wrongful termination

a woman speaks into a microphone behind a podium
Municipal Manager Amy Demboski at a June 1, 2022 Assembly meeting (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Former Anchorage municipal manager Amy Demboski is suing Mayor Dave Bronson for gender discrimination, defamation and for firing her in retaliation when, she says, she raised concerns over his administration’s actions.  

Demboski’s attorney filed the lawsuit last week in Superior Court in Anchorage.

Demboski had threatened to sue the city shortly after the mayor fired her last December. In a blistering letter to the Assembly and other city leaders, she alleged numerous illegal and unethical actions by Bronson and his staff, including illegal contracting and creating a hostile work environment. She demanded a written apology and a settlement to avoid going to court. The Assembly rejected the $550,000 settlement in May.

Demboski’s 24-page lawsuit, filed Sept. 1, includes numerous allegations against the mayor and high-level city staff that she had written about in her letter, and also new ones including that the mayor gave his “tacit approval” for his then-chief of staff to have an “improper relationship with a subordinate” and that the mayor was pressured by associate John Morse to “swing” a contract for homeless services at the Sullivan Arena mass shelter to a friend of Morse’s.

Demboski claims she tried to get staff to follow the law but was rebuffed and eventually fired by Bronson for bringing the concerns to light. The lawsuit says Bronson “told others he ‘had to fire her’ for putting her concerns ‘in writing.’”

“Their wanton disregard and disdain for following the law and propriety presented daily problems,” says Demboski’s lawsuit.

The mayor’s office issued a brief statement Wednesday in response to the lawsuit. 

“The Mayor is aware Ms. Demboski has filed a civil suit,” said the statement sent by Bronson spokeswoman Veronica Hoxie. “He will continue to work hard on behalf of the people of Anchorage and looks forward to this matter being resolved.”

Bronson has repeatedly declined to publicly discuss Demboski’s allegations, saying they’re personnel issues and citing legal advice. He has also declined to publicly address wider management issues at City Hall. 

Here are some of the allegations laid out in Demboski’s lawsuit: 

  • Demboski says she received complaints of then-chief of staff Alexis Johnson having an improper relationship with an unnamed subordinate. Demboski says the mayor was also aware of the concerns and directed Demboski to “catch” Johnson and the subordinate at City Hall. She says the relationship continued forward with the mayor’s “tacit approval” and “Mayor Bronson himself began engaging in retaliatory behavior toward the administrative staff who brought the inappropriate relationship to light.” Johnson did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment. 
  • The mayor was pressured by an associate, John Morris, to “swing” a contract for homeless services at the Sullivan Arena mass shelter to Bean’s Cafe, which was operated by Morse’s friend. Demboski says Bronson later fired Shawn Hays, who oversaw the contracting process, in retaliation after Beans Cafe did not get the contract.
  • The mayor contracted Larry Baker as an advisor without approval of the Assembly or the municipal manager. Demboski alleges that Baker’s consecutive short-term contracts were intentionally made to avoid a dollar threshold that a longer contract would have required approval by the Assembly.
  • The mayor unlawfully turned off the city’s water fluoridation
  • The mayor directed work to be done on a proposed East Anchorage homeless shelter without Assembly approval.  
  • Bronson and Baker attempted to have municipal prosecutors  drop domestic violence charges made against Brandon Spoerhase, a business partner of Baker’s, by Kolby Hickel, Bronson’s then-deputy municipal manager. 
  • Baker attempted to convince Bronson to direct city real estate transactions toward properties managed by Baker and Spoerhase. 
  • Bronson would treat women as subservient to men. Demboski described an instance involving Anchorage CFO Grant Yutrzenka. She said the mayor “raised his voice to a shout and held his hands in front of her at different heights explaining that in Mayor Bronson’s mind — because Mr. Yutrzenka is a man and Ms. Demboski is a woman — Mr. Yutrzenka is ‘up here’ and Ms. Demboski is ‘down there.’”

Demboski also alleged that Bronson convened senior staff to “get their stories straight” regarding her termination, and the Bronson administration spread misinformation about Demboski, which “negatively impacted her ability to obtain new employment.”

Scott Kendall, the attorney for Demboski, did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

The lawsuit alleges that Dembsoki was fired in retaliation by Bronson, in violation of the Alaska Whistleblower Act, that the mayor was engaged in gender discrimination against Demboski, that the mayor breached his obligation to good faith and fair dealings and that the mayor and his staff defamed Demboski and made it difficult for her to find new employment. 

The lawsuit asks for more than $100,000 in compensatory damages, in addition to other damages and attorney’s fees. Additionally it asks for an injunction by the court to prevent additional damaging actions to Demboski.

Alaska Public Media’s Jeremy Hsieh contributed to this report.

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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