Anchorage

Bronson’s pick for health department director draws intense questioning from Anchorage Assembly members at confirmation hearing

Mayor Dave Bronson’s choice for Anchorage Health Department director faced a litany of questions from Assembly members on Tuesday during a confirmation hearing.

Many members have expressed concern over David Morgan, Bronson’s appointed health department director, due to questions over his qualifications and comments he recently made about the pandemic.

Morgan must still be confirmed by the Assembly during a confirmation vote next week. That vote has been expedited following concerns from Assembly members, and members will vote next Tuesday. Morgan needs six affirmative votes to keep his appointed position.

Assembly members on Tuesday scrutinized Morgan’s views on the coronavirus pandemic, including questions about his previous posts on social media.

Member Austin Quinn-Davidson asked about a meme Morgan shared on Facebook, quoting the post: “ ‘If you think the coronavirus panic in an election year right after three failed coup attempts against Trump is a coincidence, you might be dumb as a rock,’ — implying that COVID was not real and was a hoax,” she said. “Can you please describe why you posted that and how you feel about that statement?”

Morgan responded that the post came from a comedian who sends a joke of the day by email.

“I didn’t really believe that, I just thought it was funny,” Morgan said.

[As COVID-19 cases rise, Anchorage Mayor Bronson says he won’t enact restrictions and doesn’t plan to get vaccinated]

“It was his posting for that day, and I didn’t even think about it, I didn’t think it was that big a deal, nobody believes that — the electoral college decides who is president and President Biden is the president,” Morgan said.

Assembly member Kameron Perez-Verdia asked questions about Morgan’s work history.

“To be honest, my inbox has been overwhelmed with emails, of folks emailing me concerned about this appointment, and those have included people that you’ve worked with in the past,” Perez-Verdia said. “And it appears that here’s a number of examples in your past where you’ve left organizations worse off than you’ve found them.”

Perez-Verdia then asked Morgan to describe what happened during his time at Choices, a local nonprofit, where he worked as finance director. A report from a former Choices employee recently circulated on social media describing a negative experience with Morgan at the nonprofit.

When reached by the Daily News on Monday, Choices CEO Kim Martinez confirmed that Morgan did work there but declined to comment further.

Morgan said he left Choices when the board changed the nonprofit’s CEO.

“I’ve never received any written documentation of any problems,” Morgan said. “And so, I guess to sum it up is, I don’t know what they’re talking about. Period.”

Assembly member Forrest Dunbar also pressed Morgan over his choice to hire Dr. Michael Savitt as the department’s chief medical officer. Savitt’s online comments on a local conservative website have criticized Assembly members over pandemic-related shutdowns and mask mandates, and questioned the effectiveness of masks.

Morgan said that he has not seen Savitt’s posts, and said that unless they were “really, really out there” he would probably still have recommended the mayor hire Savitt.

After the hearing, Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant described some of Morgan’s answers as “evasive.” Constant said that members still have more questions that they expect Morgan to answer in writing before next Tuesday’s vote.

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