Kenai Borough Assembly attacks, releases just enough confidential information to damage Mayor Charlie Pierce

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The Kenai Borough Assembly met in executive session Sunday, and then released a statement to the public further attacking borough Mayor Charlie Pierce.

The Assembly said it waived attorney-client privilege to say that in August it had asked Mayor Pierce to resign so it could more effectively settle a complaint against him. The Assembly and the alleged victim did not release all of the deliberations, but the part they released contained “specific aspects” — the side of the story that damages the mayor, as they seek to protect the Assembly’s reputation, after intense criticism that has come from the public over Assembly actions.

The Kenai Assembly on Friday had called an emergency meeting for Sunday after its sudden decision to install Democrat Mike Navarre was received poorly by the public on the Kenai Peninsula. Navarre, a Democrat, was tapped by the Assembly to fill in the remaining term of Mayor Pierce starting Oct. 1, and Assemblyman Tyson Cox has said that having Navarre in place will allow the Assembly to put a pause on the special election that is called for to fill out the year that remains in Pierce’s term. This is how the Anchorage Assembly operated after Mayor Ethan Berkowitz resigned in October of 2020.

Last week, the borough’s attorney issued a statement that contradicts what the Assembly said Sunday. Sean Kelly said there was no settlement agreement that required or called for Pierce to resign.

“I cannot comment on confidential internal investigations, except to say that there is not an ongoing investigation. In the interest of transparency, however, on July 14, 2022, the borough did engage the law firm of Ashburn & Mason to conduct a confidential, internal investigation. That investigation was completed in July. Any internal documents or memorandum prepared for the purpose of or regarding the investigation are covered by attorney-client privilege, or attorney work product doctrine, or constitutional individual privacy protections, and cannot be released absent court order. Accordingly, and to protect all borough employees’ privacy rights and participation in internal investigations, I cannot, at this time, confirm or provide any individual names concerning the investigation. It would be inappropriate on my part to infer otherwise,” said Sean Kelly, borough attorney.

“Mayor Pierce voluntarily resigned. There is no settlement agreement that required or called for Mayor Pierce to resign. There is no applicable settlement agreement. There has been no monetary settlement. There are no signed agreements,” he said. I cannot comment on threatened or pending litigation, including the existence or non-existence of threatened litigation, except to say that the KPB has not been served with a publicly filed quasi-judicial administrative or judicial complaint related to any of the allegations raised in Alaska Landmine story (or any other similar news stories on this),” he wrote.

But the Assembly has its own attorney through Ashburn & Mason, and in consultation with that lawyer decided to release just enough information to support their side of the story. The alleged victim of the “bullying, harassment, discrimination, or retaliation” had been hired by former Mayor Navarre, and Pierce had kept her on as an executive assistant after Pierce became mayor. She intends to stay on to work for incoming interim mayor Navarre, who is a co-chair for the Bill Walker for governor campaign. Pierce is also a gubernatorial candidate finalist for the Nov. 8 ballot.

The public comments during the open part of the meeting were not charitable toward the Assembly. People said the Assembly is trying to divert attention from the Assembly’s recent escapades, including the appointment of Navarre.

Assemblyman Tyson Cox, when asked why the Assembly decided to release a statement, said it was so he could get his side of the story out.


35 COMMENTS

  1. Oh Mr. Cox, since you’re so knowledgeable and you’ve been it so long, can you verify this is the same employee that previously wanted a clothing allowance as part of salary under the Navarre administration?

  2. She more likely a dumb woman paid too much. Next mayor be smarter than pierce
    replacing such a woman who talks too much and
    don’t have any sense of humor to smartly brush it off. C’mon! You a woman sitting in the big room be smart and like the democrats say put on your ‘big girl underwear’

    • A good wife would tell her leader-elect husband get rid of such a woman even making a few diplomatic phone calls getting the woman another job more appealing, or walk like on glass around her. She troubled and will bring trouble. I grew up in the 90’s around executive women to learn when you sit in the big room there are things left best unspoken. You work with the big men, you act like a big woman.

    • What would she be “brushing off”? Are you saying if Charlie’s harassing an employee they should just “brush it off”? C’mon!

  3. Good grief grow a backbone, and some maturity, poise and sense of humor. Disgusting. How so many women survive any type of occupation is beyond me when they are so spineless and have to rely on histrionic lawsuits and filed complaints to make themselves feel ‘safe and secure’ or whatever, as I completely do not get it. I am in my 60’s now, semi-retired, but a long career in a male dominated field that required backbone. I guess I could have filed dozens of ‘complaints’ but instead chose humor and my own strong spine to deflect silly or bad behavior. It paid off and many many good friends and colleagues made. I pity these flakey spineless weak women that even today have so little confidence to simply stand up for themselves and not waste the time of HR or the court system.

  4. CP has cost the borough a bundle. If you’re not paying taxes in the borough I guess it doesn’t matter to you. If it were your daughter or your son who was being mistreated, maybe you would feel different. And it isn’t just men incidentally.And if you were leading the vote from the bottom of the pile, with 6%, what would you be doing? Apologizing to your running mate might be a start.

    • Oh please Suze. Have you never heard of people working for the government that create friction however they can because they don’t like the point of view of their boss? My mom has. And correct, it wasn’t just women or men that harassed her. She had a man that slept during his 8 hour shift when he was supposed to be teaching an electronics class. He didn’t have sleep apnea either. He failed to do his job and even when he was awake he wouldn’t do anything and was passive aggressive about everything. My mom tried to fire him and it was essentially impossible because he appealed everything and sent it through the bureaucracy of government. (I have no idea why people want to continue work someplace where they fail to meet expectations) The woman that was above my mom entertained his appeals because that woman had her own agenda against my mom. The guy grew more and more insubordinate and wouldn’t even show up to work some days just cuz. My mom had to dissolve the electronics program just because of the jerk and how impossible it is to fire someone in government, then he threatened to sue. He followed through, but it fizzled fast because the woman above my mom didn’t have control over the legal issues. So the woman requested all of the programs to be inspected by OSHA. Incase you don’t know, nobody calls OSHA to have them come to inspect. That’s unheard of. But luckily all of my mom’s programs passed inspection. Then the woman asked OSHA to comeback and inspect everything again. Still fine. Then she asked for a different inspector and that inspector nitpicked enough to shutdown things in one shop only temporarily.

      You might say, well two people had an issue with my mom, she must have been a real issue. That’s the logic you are using against Pierce. No. All of the other employees agreed with my mom’s actions and agreed the woman above had a serious vendetta because of a hidden agenda. And those two people cost more money than anybody, not my mother. So it is no shock that a woman that worked for Navarre created friction when she had to work under Charlie. And obviously the assembly has a bone to pick with Charlie too. No shock there. The assembly obviously wants a democrat and will entertain any claims of anything under every rock until they get what they want.

      • If you believe that Charlie is the greatest business genius ever, and he single handedly deposited 30 million smackeroos into the KPB coffers, then sure, he didn’t cost the taxpayers anything.

        If however you believe that he made a handful of decent decisions, and was also really lucky in terms of recent fiscal impacts to KPB, then he cost the KPB money because he’s faced more allegations from KPB employees that resulted in financial settlements than maybe all KPB mayors in history of the Borough. $267,000 so far, according to the Clarion, not including the current allegations. I believe the Clarion submitted public records requests to get the details.

        And in case nobody has every chastised you for your manner of speech, responding to another adult with “Grow up little Suzy” is demeaning, disrespectful and makes you sound like a 10 year old. But maybe that’s what you were going for?

    • Suze – Charlie Pierce left the Borough with a budget surplus of 30 million bucks! That’s probably what got him in trouble. Most politicians nowadays do not like any pot of money sitting around without being spent amongst their co-horts & fellow grifters.

      • Fishing for Food – There is a point where exaggeration transitions to straight lying. Charlie didn’t leave the borough with a $30 milling dollar budget surplus. He did leave with a fund balance higher than when he started, but as mentioned elsewhere, he raised sales tax, which lets KPB gov keep more property tax, and he got tons of money from feds due to covid. I’m not saying Charlie isn’t a fiscal conservative, just that he also has been lucky, PILT, COVID(was horrible, but was a windfall for governments), Online Sales Tax.

        Previous fund balance peak during Navarre admin was $28.1 million, 2015

        Charlie Pierce elected Mayor 2017, beat Linda Hutchings by 45 votes.
        2017-Fund balance $23.3 million
        2018-$22.8 million
        2019-$26.9 million
        2020-$25.9 million
        2021-$30.9 million

        So for 4 of 5 years of Pierce admin, fund balance was less than peak during Navarre administration.

        Source: https://www.kpb.us/finance-dept/finance-documents
        Financial Statements FY2021
        Page 147

        It’s unfortunate that facts or boring, since they are sort of useful.

    • One employee (the HR Director) did absolutely nothing and was held accountable after it was discovered when he did not shut down privileges to departing employee’s access to financial software and borough internet among on other snafus he had excuses for. He would not/could not talk to the Union — and it paralyzed the employees. He is “an attorney” with a hella ego without people skills to manage the workforce and he was “gifted” a settlement so he would leave. That’s what happens in today’s world — if you hire dead weight, you’re stuck with them… it’s easier/cheaper/faster to give them a “settlement” then to fire people like this.

  5. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but all this stinks of a scam. Pierce should not run for governor, this scam is just going to energize him to run. Dunleavy has the best chance and if Pierce continues we all know what will happen. We will have two Republicans and one of the Democrats will drop out at the last minute “under mysterious circumstances,” then RCV will take over. Just ask Peltola has wonderfully this works.

    • Clearly you don’t understand how RCV works. There is no “spoiler” or vote-splitting under RCV. Peltola won because a lot of people really don’t like Palin and wouldn’t have voted for her even if Begich hadn’t been in the race.

      Suzanne, please publish an article explaining how RCV works without political commentary or describing it as “complicated” or “confusing” because it’s really not. Clearly your readers need to be educated if they are to vote effectively in November and I would think as a prominent member of the conservative movement you would want to give us the best chance to win elections. Most conservative commentary (not just from this site) has spent the last 2 years attacking RCV rather than factually explaining how it works, and I believe this has discouraged many conservative voters. We need our voters to turn out, not stay home.

    • Because there is a regular KPB election in about 4 weeks, so publishing a bunch of public notice about a special election would be confusing for the regular election. This takes the pressure off, which means Clerks can be thoughtful about public notice, candidate filing period, public notice on candidates, etc, etc. Plus, KPB budget process starts Nov/Dec and hits full stride Feb/March. It doesn’t really mean hitting pause on election, it just means that there won’t be 5 months with no CEO, or 5 months with the Finance Director pulling double duty in the middle of budget prep. It’s crazy that people are freaking out about a guy with 3 terms experience as CEO of KPB volunteering to do it for 5 months. People are freaking out about a democratic leaning person in a non-partisan position volunteering the fill the seat of a republican who walked away mid-term, for WHATEVER reason he walked away.

      Part of the basis of misunderstanding here is that people don’t have any clue that KPB employees actually do work, the organization is actually pretty lean. Charlie came in saying he was going to cut budgets, didn’t cut a single position, increased positions overall. Because there isn’t anything to cut without cutting services. (Which means which don’t you want, local control of property/platting, roads, dump, 911, fire-ems, schools, Nikiski pool and senior, etc, take your pick)

      • Nobody Interesting – Oh, so when Navarre called Brent Johnson, the Borough Assembly president, Mike was volunteering for the job? That changes everything! Volunteers typically don’t get paid or receive any benefits. Now thats some cost savings to the Borough! We can afford to postpone the election indefinitely in that case. Thanks, Mike.

        • I think Mr. Navarre did actually say he would forego a salary, so I guess it’s all good! Glad we sorted that out!

          And just to be clear, Assembly didn’t usurp, steal, whatever, they followed the rules that exist. Elam and Derkevorkian were uncomfortable with process, but if they actually penciled out what it would take to do a mini-special election, before the real special election, in the middle of an ACTUAL regular election, they would need to admit that they think it’s OK if the KPB doesn’t have a CEO/mayor for 4-8 weeks, and in the end they would STILL end up appointing.

          Just would have appointed from a list, of one or more people.

          • Nobody interesting – wow, that’s great! According to you Mike Navarre will forgo a salary as Borough Mayor! There is about as much chance of that happening as Alaskan’s receiving a full PFD next year!

    • And how does it exactly “allow” the Assembly to put a pause on the special election? Is this temporary or something? I wish MRAK would explain this detail better. Pierce’s term wasn’t going to be over until 2023. Is there some way to get out of having to do a special election that I’m not aware of? It bugs me that the only people that make sure the assembly is following charter and ordinances are the attorney and clerk. The attorney is appointed by the mayor that is now gone, so the assembly has control over that position. And the clerk is appointed by the assembly. Doesn’t seem like a good form of checks and balances for occasions like this.

      The assembly should be forced to make a comment on why and how they are allowed to “pause” the special election. It can’t be simply “well, we thought a special election would be costly and cumbersome”. Ya, that’s what dictators say. “Rather than go through the effort of making sure people agree with everything, we should just do it.”

  6. Mike Navarre is an old dinosaur with tons of baggage. He’s got no skills outside of political seats. Democrats are using him only to stiffen the boards before the broadsides. However, Charlie should have never quit his job. Big mistake, Charlie

  7. Be careful of what you wish for. This assembly’s boondoggle is going to cost in the end. Sooo long Mr. Cox, you’re history now! Your expertise is really not needed, and we have to question whether you have any.

    When a slick lawyer gets ahold of this last shenanigan, Charlie can be laughing himself to the bank. He’s still on the payroll of the Borough and the assembly is succeeding at a defamation of character and for violating his rights as well.

    Go Charlie Go! Get some of the $$$ you saved this ungrateful bunch.

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