Anchorage

Anchorage Assembly narrowly rejects Bronson’s choice for city real estate director

The Anchorage Assembly on Thursday night narrowly rejected Mayor Dave Bronson’s choice for city real estate director.

After a short discussion, the Assembly failed to confirm Jim Winegarner in a 5-5 vote.

Assembly members John Weddleton, Jamie Allard, Pete Petersen, Felix Rivera and Crystal Kennedy all voted in favor of confirmation while Chair Suzanne LaFrance, Meg Zaletel, Forrest Dunbar, Kameron Perez-Verdia and Austin Quinn-Davidson voted against.

Because of a technical issue, Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant didn’t vote.

Winegarner, a former oil and gas executive and land consultant, was appointed to the role of real estate director in September to replace Christina Hendrickson. In a lawsuit against the administration, Hendrickson claims she was fired in retaliation for sending a whistleblower complaint to the Anchorage Assembly.

Hendrickson’s whistleblower complaint alleged that the Bronson administration hired Winegarner as acting chief housing officer, moved him to an open position in her office and then gave him the title of Heritage Land Bank executive director in a manner that “violates multiple codes and is fiduciarily irresponsible.”

Her lawsuit claimed that Adam Trombley, the city’s director of economic and community development and Hendrickson’s supervisor at the time, told her that the administration would find funding for Winegarner’s position as Heritage Land Bank executive director — there was no identified funding in the city budget for that role — because it was a campaign promise.

On Thursday night, Allard spoke in favor of Winegarner’s confirmation, saying, “Mr. Winegarner has absolutely stepped forward in the ability to lead his real estate team.”

But in debate before the vote, some members expressed a wish for the position to be filled by someone who was better qualified to act as both director of real estate and executive director of the Heritage Land Bank, which previous real estate directors had done.

“My takeaway with our discussions is that this candidate is probably good at real estate, but Heritage Land Bank does a whole lot of managing lands,” Weddleton said. “It’s very much different than kind of pure real estate transactions.”

When asked about the benefit of consolidating the two jobs, Municipal Manager Amy Demboski said that “it would save taxpayer money.”

“You wouldn’t be paying for two people,” she said.

A reconsideration of the vote was possible later Friday night to give Constant the opportunity to vote. That had not happened as of 11 p.m. Thursday.

The Assembly postponed a confirmation vote on two other Bronson appointees — Joe Gerace as Anchorage Health Department director and Daniel Zipay as director of Solid Waste Services — to Nov. 9.

They also confirmed Bronson’s choice for municipal traffic engineer, Bradly Coy.

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