Saying she has violated the state’s open meetings statutes, a group in Anchorage has begun the process of recalling Assembly member Meg Zaletel, who represents Midtown Anchorage, including Airport Heights, U-Med, and Taku-Campbell.
Why Zaletel, and not the others on the Assembly?
Evidently she is the most vulnerable for a recall. If she had not been in a three-way race in 2019, she would have barely won her seat. Her current term represent Assembly District 4, Seat F ends in 2022.
A recall is in the works for Assembly member Felix Rivera, but since he was reelected in April, the recall effort must wait until he has served six months.
According to the group, Zaletel committed “removable misconduct by violating the Alaska Public Meetings Statutes at the Anchorage Assembly meeting July 28th, engagingly in willful, flagrant, and obvious collision to limit public testimony inside the assembly chambers. Zaletel conducted municipality business following the barring of public presence within the chambers except those approved by the assembly in a manner not disclosed to the public prior to the meeting.”
On July 28, Zaletel was presiding over the Assembly meeting, to which the public was barred by order of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz.
But one member of the public was allowed into the meeting to testify — Mike Abbot, the former Municipal manager. He now runs the Alaska Mental Health Trust and was brought into the chambers to explain land availability issues to the Assembly. No one else from the public was allowed in.
Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has for several weeks barred the public from entering the municipal library building, where the Assembly meets. He is using his emergency powers to order restaurants, bars, bingo halls, and churches closed as well.
“The misconduct occurred with and despite video evidence of ample physical space and availability to comply with the Mayor’s emergency powers proclamation which, regardless of intent, would not override AS 44.62.31’s proscription of actions limiting public participation in Assembly meetings.
“Zalatel disenfranchised both the economically disadvantaged without the electronic means to view the assembly, the 70+ members of the public outside the chambers desiring to be admitted, and the hearing and visually impaired public left without Robert means of participation.”
The group just needed 10 names and addresses of municipal voters to apply for the recall petition. Once the petition is issued, the group will have 60 days to collect the required signatures. The petition must have signatures from enough voters to equal 25 percent of the number that voted in the last election for that office. The group is looking for signature gatherers to volunteer.
The last election was in 2019. Some 9,872 voted for candidates for the seat, so the group will need 2,468 good signatures to force a special recall election.