Undaunted by the failed attempt to recall Anchorage Assemblyman Felix Rivera, Anchorage resident Russell Biggs is moving ahead with a recall petition to remove Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel.
The grounds for removal are the same as for Rivera — she disobeyed the mayor’s emergency orders regarding gatherings last July — orders everyone else in the city had to adhere to during the pandemic shutdown.
The incident in question occurred when the Assembly prohibited the public from entering the Assembly Chambers, but then allowed certain people to come in for invited testimony, exceeding the limits placed by the mayor.
It was seen by many as governing by fiat and the Assembly’s actions led to protests at every Assembly meeting set summer and fall.
Biggs filed a petition to recall Rivera and a second one to recall Zaletel. The Rivera recall was fought by the assemblyman, who lost in court. The Zaletel recall petition was fought by Zaletel and she finally lost in court in May.
Biggs thought it over for a couple of weeks, while Zaletel filed an appeal in the Alaska Supreme Court. That was what prompted him to go ahead. The recall case will be heard in August, and Biggs said it’s time to get this settled at the Supreme Court — can citizens recall their governing officials or not? He’s eager for that court date.
“It’s important they don’t do it again. They obstructed for nearly a year. This may be expensive, but will settle the precedent and slow them down from doing this again,” Biggs said.
Meanwhile, he has received the first petitions from the Municipal Clerk’s office, who he says has also slow-rolled him and has levied excessive fees.
Two weeks ago, Biggs said, his attorney was told by the Clerk’s office that they were going to release the petition booklets. Biggs was waiting outside City Hall on Tuesday afternoon, waiting for them. He said the Clerk Barbara Jones would not return his phone calls and advised him she would only speak through the city’s lawyer.
Finally, he received a partial printing of the petitions booklets — about one third of what he’ll need to start collecting signatures.
Zaletel represents District 4 Seat F in Alaska. That seat will be on the April 2022 ballot.
Biggs posted his reasoning on the Reclaiming Midtown Facebook page on Tuesday evening:
“Ten months after it was submitted, the Municipal Clerk was forced by the Court to release the recall petition of Meg Zaletel today, almost a month after the ruling was made on May 20, 2021.
“That means that assembly member Meg Zaletel will face a recall petition for violation of the 2020-2021 COVID emergency mandates and that the evidence supporting this recall was found to be legally sufficient by the Alaska Superior Court.
“Why is this important? Meg Zaletel and the Anchorage Assembly improperly closed the assembly chambers to the public in July 2020, limiting the public debate on the diversion of millions of dollars of CARES act funds being used for private property purchases.
“The mis-use of thosefunds are now being audited by the U.S. Department of Treasury due to the high number of citizen complaints.
“This recall petition submitted nearly a year ago was one of several improperly blocked by the Municipality despite settled Alaska law, and we successfully sued (and won) in order hold her accountable.
“Meg Zaletel joined the municipal lawsuit in an attempt to further block the recall petition, and despite video evidence of the violation, has appealed this issue to the Supreme Court of Alaska, where she and the Muni legal team will lose again.
“It is critical that this petition be successful in signature gathering, because if not, the Muni will undoubtedly move to dismiss this case and set the stage for the same legal obstruction and delay tactics for any future citizen-led initiative, as it did in this one.
“The Recall process is incredibly difficult, expensive, and time consuming. It should not be made harder by highly partisan meddling of the Anchorage legal team. It should not take a court case costing tens of thousands of dollars to utilize the mechanism in code that allows citizens to hold their legislators accountable for clear violations of law. I hope you understand the importance of this because if you have forgotten all the reasons why the assembly deserves to be recalled, you’ll probably be reminded of it again in the next 15 months.
” If you have any doubt about this reality- look no further than our state Capitol. It’s still closed to the public despite literally every other institution in Alaska being open,” Biggs wrote.