At Anchorage City Hall, not a Merry Christmas, but hopefully a better New Year

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2119


By SUZANNE DOWNING | MUST READ ALASKA

The dysfunction in the Bronson Administration at Anchorage City Hall came to a head last week, when the mayor fired City Manager Amy Demboski, after she sent him an email detailing her concerns about contracts she believes were executed in violation of code.

The press release from the Mayor’s Office announcing Demboski’s replacement was stone cold — it just said she had been replaced by Kent Kohlhase temporarily. It gave no reason, and the Mayor’s Office handled the rest in salacious leaks to certain websites.

Demboski has been with Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration from the outset and many observers recognize that she guided him through perilous straits during his early days as mayor, when he didn’t exactly know how governments operate. Demboski had already served on the Anchorage Assembly and in the administration of Gov. Mike Dunleavy, and has a history of administration in the private sector.

She was a strong city manager. When the hostile members of the Anchorage Assembly peppered the mayor with questions he could not answer, he deferred to her. But along the way, Demboski got cross-threaded with a senior manager in the Bronson administration who has close ties with the mayor. And, from Demboski’s side of the story, she was concerned that the administration was approving contracts that were illegal because they needed to go in front of the Assembly, due to their amounts and other considerations. Demboski said that some of the contracts appeared to be for overlapping work, and she was not able to get the purchasing director’s cooperation.

Demboski left her keys on the desk, and quietly left City Hall. She had no intention of making a big scene. But then, someone high in the Bronson Administration leaked select details of the events to a gossip blog, and it appears the leaks were from someone close to the mayor — I’ll not say who, but it’s someone who has leaked a lot of information to the gossip blogger in the past. On behalf of the mayor, operatives started a whisper campaign against Demboski that was clearly intended to damage the former city manager. She decided to give interviews to the Anchorage Daily News and KTUU in order to clear her name.

Demboski admits she used foul language in describing the purchasing director, but she said that incident happened in front of a tiny circle of senior leaders, and that the subject of her scorn was not in the room. She takes responsibility for her foul mouth.

All of this points to leadership failure in the Bronson Administration. Leaks to bloggers like this show a lack of discipline among the people running the government. Who will be the next target of a leak? People working in the administration are now in a state of distrust; they know the source of these leaks. They know who to fear.

Unfortunately for the mayor, the statements that Demboski has now made to the press have given the Anchorage Assembly everything it needs to start impeachment processes — fairly or unfairly — against the mayor. The rest of their damage to him will be done in the court of public opinion.

And Demboski, through her own influence, will peel off conservative support that the mayor needs for his reelection. From her point of view, she sees the firing as retaliation for her bringing serious legal issues to the mayor’s attention. If she chooses, Demboski may have a retaliation claim for wrongful termination. The mayor will now be distracted from the running of the city while he tries to do damage control. Already, the trove of public records requests have begun, and documents are going to be made public that won’t make the Bronson Administration look good.

There aren’t any bad people working in the Bronson Administration, as far as this writer knows. There are a lot of good people. But Bronson is in trouble, and should take a look in the mirror and realize that with all the drama, the buck stops with the person he sees there.

As an aside, the other day I was wringing my hands because I had not been able to get any advance help for the state budget roll-out from the Gov. Mike Dunleavy administration. Looking back, I can now say that it’s a good sign that Dunleavy is running a tight ship, and that the leaks are few and far between to hostile forces. Let’s hope it stays that way.

As far as Bronson goes, the leaks he has been letting out are reflecting poorly on his ability to run a tight ship. He has very little time to get this situation under control and get the public on his side quickly. Can he move past the drama, and avoid ending up in court with Amy Demboski on the witness stand, during the same timeframe he is running for reelection?

This kerfuffle is not nearly as bad as the mess made by former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. But Berkowitz had something that Bronson doesn’t have — a friendly press. The mainstream media knows blood when it sees it in the water, and has already begun to form the circle of sharks around Bronson.

Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.

29 COMMENTS

  1. We don’t know the details but, I found it disappointing that Demboski spilled her guts to KTUU/Alaska’s News Source (ADN Light) right outta’ the gate. They’re certainly no friend of Mayor Bronson’s. Not a good look for her either. Looks like the Special Needs 9 just got an early Christmas present.

    • I don’t blame her. I’ve seen people’s careers get destroyed by taking the high road. Lies get 1/2 way around the world before truth gets it’s pants in

      Further, people in some jobs (don’t know if it applies here) are legally and ethically bound to report fiscal misdeeds. By keeping silent it would have made it easier for the Bronson admin to blame her.

      People in this universe play dirty. They count on their victims taking the high road. Good for Amy for not sitting still for it.

      If they just wanted her gone, stay quiet. She’d have left. But by invoking innuendo they forced her hand

      If whomever wants to play hardball with Amy, they need their pooping pants on.

    • I would have predicted a more professional response from Amy Demboski and Suzanne Downing. Demboski’s appearance on KTUU and her interview with the ADN yesterday and then Downing’s opinion piece today were both big disappointments. The content and timing of Demboski’s final email to the mayor seems to have laid the groundwork for a lawsuit that will not be in the best interests of the Municipality.

  2. Bronson for reelection? I wonder what kind of reelection campaign he would run? A great leader has people that are dedicated and want to work for them. A great leader recognizes his team’s efforts, encourages honesty and integrity. I voted for Bronson … even had a sign in my yard. I am disappointed. I have seen nothing but instability, distrust, failure to work with the Assembly, failure to communicate with the citizens of Anchorage, our homeless population bussed all over the place, and now a mess of unplowed narrow dangerous streets. This administration will not be forgotten, and not the kind of legacy a true leader would hope for.

  3. Don’t know the details, but it seems to indicate that Amy hurt someone’s feelings, by pointing out the truth. I hope she realizes how many people out here love and respect her for her years of service and can shake it off and enjoy the holidays. What a great time to take a well- deserved break, regardless of the circumstances. Merry Christmas, all. Amy, I have job waiting for you.

  4. Berkowitz is a red herring, and you know it. Demboski’s choice of words would have gotten me fired from every professional job I ever had. It’s completely irrelevant how many people were present, or whether someone attempts to retroactively claim that they “took responsibility”.

    Focusing on leaks is a distraction – ending them does nothing to resolve the underlying issues. Things have to be broken for a long time before something like this occurs. Why was this power struggle allowed to go unchecked until Demobski’s outburst? If there are code violations, how serious are they, why were they condoned, and how has ignoring them become the predominant culture in this administration?

    • RV, I note that you invoke “professional”. I consider myself to be a Professional and I can tell you that in my work place the “C” word is used to describe people who are toxic. But, maybe you work for the Government? If true then your place of work is a Butter Clam Beach on Porpoise Island in May!

      • If you’re saying that calling a colleague (in front of other colleagues) a FC is fine if that person is considered toxic, I call BS. You’re lying about being professional, or your definition stretches the imagination. Even on the commercial fishing boats I’ve worked on, when that kind of extreme verbal attack occurred, there were non-firing consequences. The person on the receiving end tries to get even somehow, and, although they don’t express it in the moment, coworkers resent the insult and minimize or avoid contacts with the person making statements like that. It’s disrespectful and terrible for teamwork.

  5. These things do happen. The Anchorage mayor’s office fiasco is peanuts to what Trump had to go through…….and still is going through. Strong statesmen leaders rely on effective managers to keep their Administration in tact. Bronson, like Trump, never before worked public sector management. Lots of back-stabbing, ego confrontation, and turn-coating. Nothing new here.

  6. There is no place for honest people in Anchorage government.

    I hope she burns them to the ground. After all the crap she took for Bronson to be treated like this?

    It’s gonna take a miracle for Bronson not to be a one term wonder.

    • It all depends upon who has the guts to run against Bronson..(We don’t need any more liberal dips.)We elected him to get some stuff done and he has, but for our “sour, liberal-muni asemby who refuses any of his great decisions..

      For all the $$ they spent on purchasing the extra housing places and the money spent to update the run-down places to codes, they probably spent more then the money that would have bought the needed materials to build the originally planned homeless shelter.(Which the Assembly originally agreed with the plans.).

      • I’m including all the non-profits who assisted in purchasing, as the money came from shifting hands from the Assembly.

  7. You just couldn’t write that story without mentioning Ethan, could you ?

    Isn’t forgiveness a tenant of the Christian faith ? How long are you going to keep rubbing Ethan’s face in this ? He did the right thing by apologizing and the resigning.

    Suzanne, it’s time to give it a rest. It’s time to move on from Ethan Berkowitz.

    Help make this a better community, Suzanne. Be a force for good, stop putting targets on members of this community. Be a better person Suzanne.

    • The old saying goes something like: “Those who forget/ignore the past are doomed to relive it.”
      While I agree with the principle of forgiveness, particularly on a personal basis, I see the reminder that Suzanne supplied was given for an historical comparison as to what the difference is likely to be in the outcome of the Bronson case.
      But that having been said, I have also noticed a downward trend over the last few years in the timbre of the MRAK voice. This is, I’m guessing, in part due to the downward spiral of the average character and ethics of those in office and in the public eye. If most of those you report on are thugs then your likely to have a ‘thuggish’ flavor to your articles.
      And after all, MRAK isn’t, as I see it, a warm fuzzy news source, but rather an attempt to show light on things hiding in dark corners so that they can be ferreted out. We could bury our heads in the sand and pretend that there are no problems to deal with. Wouldn’t it be great if there weren’t any thugs left for her to “put targets on members of this community”.
      At any rate, have a Merry Christmas for your own part.

      • LOL, Suzanne’s main point is that no one should have talked. Hard to see how that is shining a light on things hiding in a dark corner. The more accurate representation is that Suzanne shines these lights when they expose problems with political adversaries. It’s useful, and needed, but selective.

        • RV. That’s my take too. Downing likes to chum the MRAK waters with tasty liberal woke stories like the one about Stanford word substitutions.

  8. This Demboski issue is nothing short of “Collateral Damage & Baggage” …. Just a simple measure of cleaning house that’s necessary – required, and there’s a whole lot of house to clean-up at the Muni, get over it and move on! “Change” is not only needed at the Muni level, but also at the State and Federal levels. Fire Everyone, terminate their cushy employment contracts. Let these employees justify their worth to us Taxpayers. As a Taxpayer, I’m always looking for the best … ROI, ROE, and ROA.
    Merry Christmas!

  9. What happens when you work among
    non- christians, it don’t matter if democrats
    and republicans. You are an Idiot all alone when not reading the bible. Quit the complaining. one don’t get to choose their employer or supervisor. You must learn to respect him or her, as i encouraged my trainee earlier today as well as
    coworkers griping against our supervisor demand. I still will
    support Mayor Bronson.

  10. One certainly does get to choose their supervisor. Don’t like them? Find a new job. This is not Soviet Alaska yet. No none is required to stay in a job they don’t like.

    As someone how has been both staff and management, your claim staff must learn to respect management is…intriguing. Genuine respect is earned, not demanded or entitled.

    Something I’m curious about. Is everyone in your office Christian?

  11. Very disappointed that Demboski gave interviews to ADN and KTUU!! Nothing like running into the arms of the enemy!!

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