Citizens who have a second recall petition request filed with the Municipal Clerk’s Office have received no response — not a yes, not a no.
And it’s now past the 30-day period for a response, as required by municipal charter.
The citizen activists known as “Reclaim Midtown” signed the request for a recall petition; they want to hold an election to remove Assembly members Felix Rivera and Meg Zalatel.
Their first request — for a recall petition to remove Zalatel — was denied by the Municipal Attorney on the last of the 30-day period set forth by the municipal charter. That request denial is now being litigated, said Russell Biggs, one of the citizens.
But in the meantime, the group filed a second set of petitions — to remove Zalatel on additional grounds, and to also recall Assembly Chair Felix Rivera.
After the 30-day period passed on that petition request, Biggs is mystified. He sent a letter to Clerk Barbara Jones to ask for an explanation:
“It appears the municipal clerk’s office has failed to respond to the recall petition applications 2020-04 (Recall of Felix Rivera) and 2020-05 (Recall of Meg Zaletel) within the time frame defined in AS 29.26.360.
“Both of these petitions were submitted and documented as received by your office on Sept 28, 2020 and are now overdue.
“I am writing to inquire if this was an oversight, or if the municipality has taken the position that the time limits described in these statutes do not apply to the citizens’ initiative to remove these legislators in the manner provided by law.”
Must Read Alaska has also reached out to the Clerk’s office for a response.
Frank McQueary, president of Alaskans for Opens Meetings, said this is “another example of the Municipality being completely unresponsive to reasonable demands that it conduct the public’s business in a transparent way.”
Meanwhile, the initial recall petition request has been appealed to Anchorage Superior Court. The municipality doesn’t have to respond to the appeal at the court for 45 days, and has not, in fact, responded to the appeal, which was filed Sept. 30.
At least one of these cases will likely move forward via petition or through the courts, but it appears the municipality is slow-walking all of it through the system.
The recall petitions say that Rivera and Zalatel committed misconduct by participating in indoor gatherings of more than 15 people, in violation of the mayor’s emergency orders.
The allegation further says that Zalatel violated Alaska’s open meetings laws by not allowing public testimony inside the Assembly chambers, but then inviting just one person from the public to come inside the chambers to testify, after all others had been excluded.
Zalatel further allowed certain members of the public to remain inside the chambers and did not disclose this exemption to the public, disenfranchising the rest of the public.
That petition was rejected by the Municipal Attorney Kate Vogel.
The second petition to recall Zaletel and Rivera is similarly worded.
Reclaim Midtown is also the group that objects to former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’ and the Assembly’s plan to purchase two hotels, an old Alaska Club building and Beans Cafe to launch a network of services for Anchorage vagrants and drug addicts. The plan involves the use of CARES Act funds that many in Anchorage believe are being misused.
“Our community effort to remove Meg Zaletel for her role in denying Anchorage citizens the right to participate in the most controversial piece of Assembly legislation in recent memory has been an important example of the methods of government overreach used by the Municipality’s administration to stifle free speech and the right to assemble,” Biggs told Must Read Alaska in September.
“Municipal Attorney Kate Vogel’s flawed legal arguments used to justify the denial has been rejected in no less than three prior Alaska Supreme Court rulings and flies directly in the face of both settled case law and the Alaska Constitution,” he said. “The decision is patently inappropriate and we will now turn to the courts for remedy.”
But at least there was a decision. This round of recall efforts has, so far, been met with stonewalled silence.