An ordinance offered by Anchorage Assembly Vice Chairman Chris Constant has a new section of the city code that gives it broad authority and a legal path to remove the mayor from office.
The ordinance, AO 2022-60 will be introduced at the May 10 meeting of the Anchorage Assembly. It has a list of offenses that, if the mayor breaches, can lead to removal by a vote of two-thirds of the Assembly. Those include acceptance of cash gifts from one doing business with the municipality, perjury, falsification of records, filing false reports, nepotism, making personal use of municipal or school district property, destruction of public property, official oppression, actual or attempted official misconduct, ordering a municipal employee or contractor employed by the supervisory board to undertake an unlawful act, or substantial breach of a statutory, code, or charter-imposed duty.
The draft ordinance appears to have been written by a former official of the Ethan Berkowitz Administration, Bill Falsey, who is now contracted with the Anchorage Assembly to provide additional legal services not being provided by the city’s Department of Law or the Assembly’s attorney Dean Gates.
Removal procedures would begin with an accusation that would be delivered to the Municipal Clerk, who works exclusively for the Assembly. The accusation would need only a majority of the Assembly and must have specific actions listed that breach the public trust. The accusation would then go to the Municipal Attorney or a special counsel hired by the Assembly, aka Bill Falsey, and, if found sufficient, the Assembly would employ a hearing officer to conduct an inquisition. Upon the recommendation of the hearing officer to remove or not remove the mayor, the Assembly could vote to remove the mayor.
The mayor would then have the ability to challenge the ruling in Superior Court, but in the meantime, the Assembly could install its own mayor seven days after the Assembly decision, unless the judge issues a stay. The Assembly says this action will not constitute “irreparable harm” and says the mayor’s seat may still be temporarily filled pending the outcome of the court case, even if the judge issues a stay.
The Assembly already had in place methods to remove members of the Assembly for cause. The new section allows it broad authority over the mayor and his staff. The mayor was sworn in less a year ago after winning a race against Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar.
For example, last year when the mayor had the fluoride temporarily shut off because of employee complaints about burning sensations, the Assembly claimed it was against city code. They could have initiated the removal of the mayor, even though the fluoride was turned back on within hours. The Assembly is also saying that if the mayor doesn’t spend all the money the Assembly appropriates, that could be grounds for removal. This makes the mayor a puppet of the Assembly, rather than the executive of the city.
The new section of city code is in Section 3 of this draft ordinance: