The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday night reelected Felix Rivera as acting chair and John Weddleton as acting vice chair.
The vote came after members aired grievances and addressed growing tension over the last year among them, which last week culminated in a charged moment between Rivera and Jamie Allard.
Municipal code requires that the Assembly select a chair and vice chair annually, by the third Tuesday following the election, and the city clerk conducted the vote by secret ballot. The Assembly also certified the results of the April 6 election at Tuesday’s special meeting.
Vice chair Weddleton took the gavel and conducted the discussion because a majority of the members’ comments regarded last week’s incident involving Rivera.
Weddleton urged members to be respectful and to focus on issues at hand instead of on people.
During closing comments at a meeting last Wednesday, Rivera in a lengthy statement criticized a comment Allard had made earlier that week, calling it “dripping with xenophobia.” That led to a tense exchange that ended in Rivera cutting off her mic and Allard loudly objecting.
Allard has since called Rivera’s criticisms “slanderous.”
Member Crystal Kennedy, who represents Chugiak-Eagle River along with Allard, said she was stunned by what she characterized as an attack against Allard and that Rivera had abused his authority by making the comments as chair.
“I want all members to know how embarrassing, how threatening, how disruptive, how unproductive, unprofessional and immature this all felt to me,” Kennedy said.
Still, other members said they saw the situation very differently.
“This community has always held a wide diversity of viewpoints,” said member Meg Zaletel, who has at times also been at odds with Allard. “But the tenor of expressing those viewpoints has been significantly degraded in the last nine months.”
Previously, disagreement could be expressed without personal attacks, she said, and often led to new ideas and paths forward.
But Zaletel said she has seen “repeated personal attacks” against multiple members from the member from Chugiak-Eagle River, referring to Allard, and that attacks and a lack of respect “have permeated the business of this body.”
Other members did not comment directly on behaviors of others on the Assembly but spoke about processes and rules the Assembly follows, and discussed whether the proper process was followed in that moment.
“From my perspective, it was more of a process problem,” member Kameron Perez-Verdia said. “I think that the chair has every right to share his concern and his opinion and the member from Eagle River should have her ability to share her concern or ideas in response to them.”
Member Chris Constant, reading parts of Robert’s Rules of Order, said that Rivera had followed the rules of procedure and said that Allard could have appealed to the body of the membership.
Rivera during his comments said he should have given the gavel to Weddleton before reading his statement last week.
Allard did not comment ahead of the vote.