Citizen activist Russell Biggs has filed suit in Alaska Superior Court alleging the intentional destruction of public records and illegal use of secret messaging apps by members of the Anchorage Assembly.
Biggs, who won a Supreme Court case in 2021 against municipal clerk Barbara Jones’s unlawful rejection of the recall petition of Meg Zaletel, alleges that members Chris Constant, Meg Zaletel, Kameron Perez-Verdia, and ex-assembly member Forrest Dunbar have violated the Alaska Public Records laws by erasing the electronic communications that were sent within assembly meetings that were coordinating the vote.
The lawsuit alleges that destruction of those records and the intentional use of secret messaging apps were an attempt to hide “serial communications” that would violate the Open Meetings Act.
Biggs had filed two separate lawsuits last year related to Anchorage Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones’ failure to provide emails from the Assembly that involved communications with Matthew Beck, the ex-Alaska Democratic Party’s communication director who was publishing anonymous articles with the Anchorage Press that were highly critical of the recall petition. Those two suits were settled by the municipal attorney and the records were eventually produced.
“This is an important case,” Biggs said, “because Forrest Dunbar has admitted using the secret messaging App signal at the same time Chris Constant, Meg Zaletel, and Kameron Perez-Verdia were intentionally deleting public records that showed they were secretly coordinating the vote. We have proof this was happening in the Assembly meetings, and this lawsuit will start the process that will eventually hold them accountable for that.”
Biggs also stated that “deleting documents specifically to avoid discovery in court is considered spoliation of evidence and is reason for court sanctions. The 2019 federal district court ruling was clear that a litigant’s use of ephemeral messaging apps like Wickr and Signal is by itself evidence of bad faith sufficient to warrant sanctions. Forrest Dunbar is claiming that because someone tried to hack his phone he gets to completely ignore Alaska Statute and Meg Zaletel is claiming that a system update to her phone erased all of her records except the personal ones she decided to save. Ridiculous.”
The lawsuit’s claim that the records would show serial communications that violate the Open Meetings Act is a serious breach of Alaska Statute.
A similar violation resulted in the recall of three Palmer city council members last year.