Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration filed a lawsuit against the city Assembly on Friday over his right to fire a city official without involvement from the body.
At issue is whether Bronson was legally allowed to fire the chief equity officer, a position created by the Assembly in the 2020, tasked with implementing the city’s equity agenda. In October, Bronson fired Clifford Armstrong III, who had been in the role since April. Typically, executive-level positions serve at the pleasure of the mayor, but the Assembly created the position with a specification that the chief equity officer could be “dismissed by the mayor only for cause shown, and only with the concurrence of a majority of the Assembly.”
In its lawsuit, the administration says the Assembly doesn’t have that power, and claims it violates the municipal charter.
“This Assembly has exceeded their authority, and are attempting to take power from the Executive Branch and control personnel matters, which are clearly an administrative function,” Bronson said in a written statement.
The complaint filed with the court asks for a judgment on whether or not under the municipal charter the Assembly can create executive-level positions that do not vest full authority over termination with the executive, which in this case is the mayor.
The administration wants the court to rule that it was a violation of the separation of powers outlined in the Alaska Constitution and municipal charter for the Assembly to create such a position but constrain the mayor’s ability to fire whomever is serving in it at his discretion.
According to Bill Falsey, who serves as legal counsel to the Assembly and formerly worked in the Berkowitz administration as municipal manager, the only time a mayor has sued the Assembly was during the Sullivan administration, and that was a “friendly” lawsuit where both parties collaborate on resolving a legal dispute.
The current lawsuit is not considered friendly.
“We have received the lawsuit, but not yet reviewed it,” Falsey said Friday evening.
After firing Armstrong III, Bronson appointed Uluao “Junior” Aumavae to fill the role.
Armstrong III filed a lawsuit of his own in November, claiming he was wrongfully terminated by the Bronson administration. That lawsuit has not yet been resolved.