Anchorage Assembly leaders tell Mayor Bronson they ‘do not recognize’ firing of chief equity officer

Equity officer Clifford Armstrong III

Anchorage Assembly leaders on Thursday told Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson they “do not recognize” his firing of Clifford Armstrong III, the city’s first chief equity officer, whom Bronson replaced earlier this month.

“We do not recognize Mr. Armstrong’s dismissal as complete nor valid and are advised by Assembly Counsel that it is not legally complete,” Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance and Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant said in a letter addressed to the mayor.

The letter cites previous court cases and municipal code, as passed by the Assembly last summer, saying “the chief equity officer may be dismissed by the mayor only for cause shown, and only with the concurrence of a majority of the assembly.”

“As a matter of law Mr. Armstrong is still the Chief Equity Officer of the Municipality,” the letter says. “He continues to be employed until there is a showing of cause for his dismissal, communicated to the Assembly, and by majority vote the body concurs with the dismissal.”

The letter requests that the mayor “advise as soon as possible” his grounds for firing Armstrong.

The mayor’s office has so far not given a reason for replacing Armstrong, saying it is a confidential personnel matter. Armstrong said he was fired three days after presenting a report to the city outlining large disparities in the city’s personnel practices, such as hiring and promotions, and he believes the report was one of the reasons he was fired.

Corey Young, spokesman for the mayor’s office, called Armstrong’s dismissal “complete, valid and legal.”

The mayor’s office argues that the firing was legally sound under the city charter, citing a section that says the mayor “shall appoint all heads of municipal departments, subject to confirmation by the assembly, on the basis of professional qualifications. Persons appointed by the mayor serve at the pleasure of the mayor.”

Young would not say whether the mayor’s office will submit to the Assembly grounds for Armstrong’s firing, and said the mayor’s office does not discuss personnel matters as a part of its human resources policy.

Bronson on Oct. 11 named Uluao “Junior” Aumavae as his new appointee for the chief equity officer position.

“Mr. Armstrong is highly qualified for the position and has done his job with integrity and a strong commitment to public service,” LaFrance said Friday in a statement. “We see no grounds for cause for this dismissal and we await the Mayor’s response on the matter.”