Anchorage Public Library deputy director Judy Eledge is resigning, Mayor Dave Bronson’s office said Tuesday — an announcement that comes as his administration faced increasing pressure to remove Eledge from her position.
In recent weeks, there have been ongoing discussions over a city settlement involving employee complaints against her, and the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica released a report that documented her history of inflammatory comments and social media posts, including statements made while working at the library and secretly recorded by an employee.
Eledge, a longtime conservative stalwart in Alaska, was appointed library director by Bronson in August 2021, but after it became clear she would not be confirmed by the Assembly, she became deputy director, effectively leading the library until late last year when Virginia McClure took the job as library director.
Eledge’s tenure was fraught with controversy, as employees reported that she made racist and inappropriate comments and fostered a hostile work environment. She was at the center of lawsuits in state and federal court over the firing of the city’s former director of the Office of Equal Opportunity, who asserts she was let go in retaliation for reporting employee complaints about Eledge.
The Bronson administration is requesting city funds to settle with the former Office of Equal Opportunity director.
Bronson’s office said Eledge’s last day will be May 15.
Eledge did not immediately respond to interview requests by phone and email.
In a resignation letter addressed to Bronson obtained by the Daily News, Eledge said she is resigning “per our discussion several weeks ago.” Eledge said in the letter her departure “is due to personal issues” as she has a major surgery scheduled later this month.
Eledge in the letter also listed issues she worked on during her library tenure, including implementing a “one bag rule” for library visitors and a ticket system for homeless persons and travelers to store items in a locked closet; steps toward renovating the Alaska Collection room and returning the collection there; and the selection of a site for a new downtown library branch in the former City Hall building.
“Moving forward, I believe that even more positive accomplishments can be achieved if politicizing these positions can be avoided,” Eledge said in the letter.
Tuesday’s announcement of Eledge’s resignation came as the Anchorage Assembly prepared to vote on a resolution calling for her to resign. In the wake of the news of Eledge’s impending departure, members passed the measure Tuesday evening in a 9-2 vote.
Assembly member Kevin Cross, who voted against the resolution along with member Randy Sulte, said that while he understands her position was controversial, “when somebody’s willing to leave, you don’t slam the door behind them.” But other Assembly members disagreed.
“I think there needs to be accountability by this body — to the extent that we can have any accountability,” Assembly Vice Chair Meg Zaletel said. “I think we get put in a really tough position. The public has asked us for action. My email and my voicemail is full of requests for us to say, ‘This is not OK.’ And this resolution is the best we can do.”
The measure’s main sponsor, West Anchorage Assembly member Kameron Perez-Verdia, initially moved to kill the measure, since Eledge had already resigned.
But Perez-Verdia rescinded his motion after several other members said they still had a duty to take an official stand and condemn Eledge’s behavior — especially, they said, because she is currently representing Alaska as part of a national education commission.
In March, Gov. Mike Dunleavy appointed Eledge to the Education Commission of the States. A spokesman for Dunleavy said Tuesday that the governor did not plan to remove Eledge from the commission. The spokesman did not answer questions about why Dunleavy plans to retain her on the commission.
“I’m really saddened by the fact that that is the voice Anchorage is leading with in the federal government and setting education policy for the whole country,” Assembly Chair Christopher Constant said Tuesday night.
The Daily News and ProPublica reported that on March 14, 2022, in a surreptitiously taped conversation with a co-worker, Eledge shared her disgust with the use of Indigenous land acknowledgments and the sharing of pronouns. She called transgender people “very troubled.”
“Equitable, to me, is a racist word,” she said to her subordinate, who recorded the conversation because she feared no one would believe her account of how Eledge interacted with her colleagues. At one point, Eledge noted that library employees were working to “wipe out everything white in the world.”
Perez-Verdia, who grew up in Utqiaġvik, said he pursued the Assembly resolution after numerous members of the Alaska Native community contacted him with “extreme concern” about Eledge’s comments.
“I was pleased about the announcement,” Perez-Verdia said of her resignation. “I think it was the right choice.”
Constant, who co-sponsored the resolution, also said he welcomed the resignation. “The library can begin to heal,” he said.
But the city continues to face claims about the damage caused by Eledge’s remarks. The former library employee who provided a recording of Eledge’s remarks to the Daily News on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the city, according to her attorney Caitlin Shortell.
The lawsuit claims that the city failed to act on complaints made by the woman and five other library employees and failed to investigate reports of discrimination made against Eledge. The lawsuit also claims the employee experienced retaliation for reporting discrimination within the city fire department, where she worked before the library.
The mayor’s office did not answer emailed questions from the Daily News about whether Bronson had asked her to resign, or whether Eledge’s resignation is connected to the Assembly’s proposed resolution, her history of inflammatory comments or the lawsuit.
At Tuesday’s Assembly meeting, Bronson thanked Eledge for her service, adding, “I personally wish her the best for her recovery from surgery.”
“I’m confident in the staff and Director McClure to continue leading our library successfully into the future,” Bronson said.