Anchorage

Alaska Supreme Court approves recall petition against Anchorage Assembly member Meg Zaletel

The Alaska Supreme Court has approved a recall petition against Anchorage Assembly member Meg Zaletel, clearing the way for a possible special election later this year.

In a one-sentence order, the Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling from May that allowed petitioners to begin gathering signatures.

“The recall petition has been affirmed by the highest court in Alaska to be both legally and factually sufficient, and now, after a year of legal and bureaucratic obstruction by the Muni and Zaletel, Anchorage citizens will finally get the opportunity to hold her accountable,” said Russell Biggs, the petition’s lead sponsor.

Recall backers submitted a completed petition to municipal officials earlier this week.

“We need to wait and see if the signatures are verified. But if they are, I fully expect this to go on the ballot for a special election,” Zaletel said.

Zaletel, an attorney who represents Midtown, was targeted by Biggs, an anesthesiologist who also pushed a recall effort against Assembly member Felix Rivera. That recall failed in April’s municipal election.

Zaletel said the failure of the Rivera recall shows that voters don’t agree with Biggs.

“It seems like a waste of time, the time I could be spending continuing to work on behalf of people in town,” she said.

She also said that a special election will waste the city’s money.

Biggs filed two recall petitions against Zaletel in 2020. Anchorage’s municipal clerk rejected both as legally insufficient, but in May, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Kevin Saxby overturned the clerk’s decision on one, allowing it to move forward.

In that petition, Biggs claims she violated a city pandemic emergency order last summer when she participated in an an Assembly meeting when more than 15 people were present.

Under Alaska law, recall petitioners do not have to prove the truth of their claims — the truth is judged by voters at the ballot box.

The Rivera and Zaletel petitions drew support from opponents of Assembly-approved measures Anchorage took to curb the spread of COVID-19, as well as a plan to purchase buildings for homeless and services using federal COVID-19 aid money.

Under municipal code and state law, the municipal clerk’s office has 10 days to verify that the petition includes the signatures of at least 2,468 registered voters from Zaletel’s Anchorage district.

If there are, the Anchorage Assembly must call a special election between 45 days and 75 days after it receives the clerk’s final report.

If Zaletel wins the special election, she will be up for reelection in April.

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