Must Read Alaska’s Suzanne Downing finished touring the Loussac Library early Friday afternoon. Minutes later, Assemblyman Chris Constant announced in a public meeting that Must Read Alaska had been seen touring the library with the city manager and the city human resources director, a tour being given by Assistant Library Director Judy Eledge.
Constant knew of the tour because an employee of the library had quickly reached out to the assemblyman with a “sightings” report. Constant was making the point on the record that the Bronson Administration was not at the meeting because City Manager Amy Demboski and Human Resources Director Niki Tshibaka prioritized giving Must Read Alaska a tour of the library, rather than attending the inquiry that the Assembly has opened up regarding the assistant library director.
Downing was getting familiar with the library operations and challenges, as political pressure from the Assembly to usurp the Executive Branch’s legal authority to operate the city continues to heat up in Anchorage politics. The Anchorage public libraries are at the heart of a growing culture war in Alaska’s biggest city, and have become a kind of religious fortress for the partisan Left.
Constant’s comment became part of the official record during his Friday afternoon inquisition that was held with the intent to cause stress to, and force the resignation of Assistant Library Director Eledge. The meeting was part theater, coming on the heels of a savaging report from Alaska Public Media that called Eledge a racist.
It was a meeting that the Assembly had been warned was likely illegal.
Assemblywoman Jamie Allard phoned in, but also quickly left the meeting after she became uncomfortable that the Assembly was actually breaking the law as it pertains to the rights of employees of the city.
“This is clearly an orchestrated political attack directed at a municipal employee. I believe this is inappropriate and likely a violation of law. I will not participate in this witch hunt,” Allard said, before excusing herself from the meeting that was organized by Assembly Chairwoman Suzanne LaFrance and Vice Chairman Constant.
Eledge is a civic leader and educator in Anchorage, the president of the Anchorage Republican Women’s Club, and was an elector for the Republican Party. She was initially appointed the director of the library, but because she does not have a masters degree in library science, the Assembly would not confirm her; she is assistant library director, and a new director is to start in August.
The Assembly had been advised in writing in advance by the Bronson Administration not to verbally disparage city employees like Eledge during an open meeting, but the members proceeded with the meeting anyway, allowing attacks in spite of the legal warning from the Law Department that they need to take such matters up in executive session. LaFrance and Constant were careful to use Eledge’s job title, rather than her name, during their criticisms, but have still opened themselves up to a discrimination complaint that Eledge herself now has the right to pursue.
Even the City’s Ombudsman has piled on in the witch hunt, taking a side with the cabal of critics of Eledge, who is managing library operations until the permanent library director arrives.
Bronson was elected in part by parents and other citizens concerned about the grooming of children going on in the library during Drag Queen Story Hour, a sanctioned event under the previous Administration.
Ombudsman Darryl Hess also made damaging statements to Alaska Public Media. He allowed former library employees to skip going to the Human Resources Department because, he said in writing, HR Director Niki Tshibaka is married to a candidate for U.S. Senate, and therefore the employees don’t trust Tshibaka, and preferred to go to Hess.
The media ally of the Assembly, the Anchorage Daily News, latched onto the story and has made it the focal point of its latest attack on the Bronson Administration, one of many missiles the newspaper has launched against the mayor since he took office last June. So important was it that the readers see this particular attack piece, the editors have even removed the paywall on it. You can read the ADN story without paying for it at this link.
A former assistant library director, who has since moved out of state, lodged a complaint to the Office of Equal Opportunity, saying that Eledge said, “If it weren’t for the white man and his oil the natives would still be living in caves.”
“[Jacob] Cole’s email detailed additional disparaging comments he said Eledge made about Alaska Natives and other groups. She complained about ‘white guilt and white apologists,’ he wrote,” according to the ADN account.
“The things that Judy Eledge has said that have shocked and disturbed me are many but these are the ones I can best remember,” Cole wrote in the email, according to the ADN.
The inquisition started with a letter to Municipal Manager Amy Demboski on Thursday, in which LaFrance and Constant demanded answers to a series of personnel and operational questions. Demboski said the Assembly is inappropriately trying to take over the functions of the executive branch and she had no intention of allowing that to happen. It’s another separation of powers issue.
LaFrance and Constant voiced concerns that several funded positions at the library have gone unfilled. Assemblyman Kevin Cross noted that across all industries, it’s hard to find good workers, but Constant argued that something else is going on that is creating the worker shortage at the library. “It’s something else,” he stated.
The entire meeting was not recorded as required, but a portion of it is on YouTube: