Clifford Armstrong III, hired as Anchorage’s first chief equity officer by former Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson, posted a cartoon on social media that appears to depict him being fired by three hooded persons, presumably members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Armstrong, who was hired in April out of Tacoma, Wash., was making $115,000 per year in a position that was at the discretion of the mayor. He came out of a social justice background as a community organizer. The Anchorage job was created by former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and approved by the leftist Assembly by an ordinance that appears to say he can’t be fired without the Assembly’s approval. Mayor Dave Bronson replaced him anyway.
Uluao “Junior” Aumavae of Anchorage is the new chief equity officer. Armstrong had, according to MRAK sources, rarely been seen at City Hall since Bronson took office July 1.
Armstrong released a statement to his LinkedIn professional page that explains his perspective on why he was replaced. He topped the press release with the cartoon drawn by Mike O’Meara, ostensibly for the Homer News. In his statement he says that he, unlike any other member of the administration, competed in a nationwide search that was a “free, open, fair, and auditable application process like what most governments do to attract the best, most qualified, workforce for their organizations.”
He said he was hired for his technical competence, not his political allegiance. Nowhere in his statement did he insinuate that his race was a factor — that was inferred by the cartoon he used to illustrate his press release.
Armstrong’s statement in full:
“I’d like to inform the public about my understanding of my involuntary separation, or firing, by the Bronson administration on Thursday October 7th, 2021. It is my hope that with the information I’m providing, most of which is already public information, the public can make informed decisions about how they’d like to defend the office and work they fought for in 2020.
“Many folks have inquired about why they think I was fired. I cannot give you a definitive answer as no cause was given. However, based on the circumstances, several factors seem to have come into play.
“The first reason, which has been the most focused-on, is the Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) Summary Report that I delivered shortly before I was terminated. I, in collaboration with others, produced a report which identifies hiring and personnel action disparities at the Muni. The report recommends specific actions to be taken between now and February of 2022, which is when a formal report and plan is due. The administration has claimed that the report and it’s [sic] implementation will continue to be worked on in my absence. I request the public demand to know by whom and how that individual would know what to do considering the Muni hadn’t addressed any of the issues I wrote about within the memory of any staff whom I consulted.
“The second reason is that it became abundantly clear that I was not like the other executives in the administration who, with few exceptions, did not compete in a national free, open, fair, and auditable application process like what most governments do to attract the best, most qualified, workforce for their organizations. I was hired for technical competence and not political allegience. And in performing my duties, my obligation was to follow the municipal code. You will have to decide for yourselves whether technical competence and legal compliance are valued by this administration.
“The third reason is related to the budget process. Without my consent, the 2022 proposed budget shows the Office of Equity and Justice (OEJ) without the connection to the Assembly that was placed there originally. Also, there were about 4 different municipal code or policy & procedure changes that I drafted specifically to improve the organizational processes related to equity and justice. In particular, drafts related to Language Access, Section 3, the Affirmative Action Plan, and the OEJ and Chief Equity Officer roles and responsibilities. This included additional staffing to do the work well. The administration categorically denied advancing on any of these proposals.
“The fourth reason is related to political commitments. In a public forum, the Mayor said he viewed my office and position as unecessary and something to be removed upon winning the election. That obviously didn’t happen and he has since named someone else, significantly less technically qualified than myself, to hold the office. The administration is clearly engaged in a political squabble with the assembly and my position and office were convenient pawns in a larger dispute unrelated to my ability to perform my job.
“I am disappointed to have lost my position under these circumstances. If offered, I would welcome the opportunity to once again serve the people of Anchorage.”