The Kenai Borough Assembly on Friday afternoon called an emergency meeting for Sunday at 1 pm to discuss whether it should release a Human Resources report regarding outgoing Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce.
The Assembly has no habit of calling for emergency sessions for wildfires, pandemics, or floods. But political emergencies are different.
The Assembly has been taking intense criticism from the public for arbitrarily installing former mayor Mike Navarre into office to fill out the term of Mayor Pierce, who leaves at the end of September to focus on his campaign for governor. The meeting on Sunday appears to be a way for the Assembly to do battle with the public, and it’s also a warning to the public that the Assembly may be willing to break the laws covering confidentiality of settlements in order to maintain control.
Two settlement agreements were made between the borough and former HR directors Kim Saner and Stormy Brown, who Pierce fired in 2019. Brown claimed she was fired because of her cancer diagnosis; she is currently undergoing chemotherapy out of state. The borough, at the time, paid $150,000 to settle the Stormy Brown claim of lost wages and emotional damage. Another $117,000 was paid to Kim Saner for a separate claim.
An audio recording summarizing the mediation on May 10 was released by the borough earlier this year.
The emergency that the Assembly actually has is that last week, the majority members appointed Navarre without public process and without allowing other people to apply for the temporary position. Leaders of that efforts, Assemblymen Tyson Cox and Jesse Bjorkman, have come under fire at the same time they are both up for reelection on Oct. 4. (Don Boston is challenging Cox, and Dil Uhlin is challenging Bjorkman. Bjorkman has dual campaigns under way because he is also running for Alaska Senate.)
Bjorkman’s radio appearance on the Bob Bird Show Friday afternoon was a public relations disaster, according to several sources. Assemblyman Richard Derkevorkian, who called into the show, told Bjorkman he was not telling the truth about the timeline of events that led to Navarre’s appointment. Derkevorkian and Assemblyman Bill Elam both voted against the surprise “lay down” motion to appoint Navarre.
Now, the Assembly majority appears to be in damage control to take the focus off of the Assembly majority’s recent behavior, which may include the violation of the Alaska Open Meetings Act.
On the agenda for the meeting:
- Discussion Regarding Release of Internal HR Investigation Report
- Discussion Regarding Disclosure of Items Discussed in Executive Session on August 23, 2022.
The borough clerk has noted that a special session may be convened, which would exclude public participation.
Remote participation will be available through Zoom. Meeting ID: 884 7373 9641 Passcode: 671108. https://zoom.us/j/88473739641. To attend the Zoom meeting by telephone call toll free 1-888-788-0099 or 1-877-853-5247 and enter the Meeting ID: 884 7373 9641 Passcode: 671108.
Detailed instructions on how to attend the meeting in person, the meeting agenda and agenda items are at this link.
The Assembly clerk says those who would would like to provide public testimony at the meeting should call the Clerk’s Office to have their names added to the public speakers list: 907-714-2160.