Mayor Dave Bronson’s office issued a statement Friday afternoon saying Brice Wilbanks, his former 23-year-old deputy chief of staff, is no longer employed with the municipality of Anchorage. Wilbanks was Bronson’s campaign manager during his run for office in 2021, and was one of his closest allies until a few days ago.
“Mr. Wilbanks is no longer employed. Mayor Bronson takes these allegations very serious and does not condone what has been alleged. Which is why in order to avoid any potential conflict it has been referred to the Alaska Department of Law. The Mayor remains committed to working on behalf of the nearly 300,000 people of Anchorage,” the statement from the Mayor’s Office said.
The “these allegation” portion seems to refer, without saying so precisely, to statements made by the city’s Ombudsman Darrel Hess, who has accused someone — an unnamed person — of reviewing security videos to find out who had been entering the Ombudsman’s office, where whistleblower complaints are taken.
Former Municipal Manager Amy Demboski is one person who had gone into the Ombudsman’s Office as she was building a case against people in the Bronson Administration concerning improper contracts. If Wilbanks had been reviewing security tapes, he may have been within his right as deputy chief of staff to do so. Cameras at City Hall do not point exactly to the door of the Ombudsman’s Office. But this would become a matter contested in court — whether those tapes were being used to intimidate employees from being whistleblowers.
Hess has referred his concerns to the city prosecutor, who has subsequently referred the case to the Anchorage District Attorney’s Office (State Department of Law) for possible legal action for what Hess describes as a “breach of duty, misconduct, or illegal activity by Municipal personnel.”
At this point, the allegations all go one way, with Wilbanks having to fend for himself legally. Wilbanks is not speaking to the media about the dust-up but his attorneys have sent a letter saying that Hess acted inappropriately and that Wilbanks was denied due process. Wilbanks’ attorneys, Phil Weidner and Lisa Rosano, are asking that he be reinstated and put on administrative leave.
What is unclear is how Wilbanks’ name was released to the mainstream media and bloggers, which are generally using all forces available to run a campaign against the mayor. Since the Ombudsman did not name Wilbanks directly in his memo, the information spilled out in some other way, which may also become actionable in court, since it is a personnel matter.
It appears that Wilbanks may be joining former Municipal Manager Amy Demboski in a wrongful discharge action against Bronson, if only to restore his reputation.