Anchorage Assembly activates subpoena powers for inquiry into extent of city director’s involvement in election challenge

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday activated its subpoena powers in a continuing push for answers about a top city director’s involvement in a challenge to the April 4 city election.

The Assembly passed the resolution for subpoena powers in a 9-3 vote. The measure is unusual — Assembly Chair Christopher Constant called it “extraordinary.”

The measure follows the release of a final investigation report by the city ombudsman last month that called on Mayor Dave Bronson to fire Office of Information Technology director Marc Dahl.

The ombudsman’s report detailed evidence that Dahl, in his position as IT director, appeared to have coordinated with an election observer, Sami Graham — a former chief of staff for the mayor — to support an election challenge filed by Graham. Ombudsman Darrel Hess referred the investigation results to the state Office of Special Prosecutions, saying in the report he “reasonably believes that there may have been a violation of state election statutes.”

“The Assembly is bound by duty, not only to our office, but to the people of the Municipality of Anchorage, to investigate any attempt to subvert the electoral process and to propose legislative solutions to ensure the security of our elections,” Constant said during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

The subpoena powers allow the Assembly chair to compel witness testimony and the disclosure of documents, correspondence and other records. Tuesday night’s resolution also authorized the Assembly’s attorneys to take action in the courts to enforce subpoenas if necessary. Assembly members Kevin Cross, Scott Myers and Randy Sulte voted against the resolution.

On April 11, Dahl instructed IT staff to revise an improperly created security policy and then publish it to an internal webpage accessible only to city staff. Dahl then emailed that policy to Graham, who was at the time no longer employed by the city. Later that day, Graham and two other observers quoted the policy verbatim in a challenge to the city election. A report by the Daily News in May made the incident public.


“These actions are not taken lightly. These are extraordinary circumstances,” Constant said Tuesday. “... Given the severity of the allegation of the report, it is imperative the Assembly receives all available information on this matter. There are too many unanswered questions for the Assembly to be able to carry out our duties as they pertain to elections.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Bronson called the Assembly’s action “an extreme measure” and “completely unnecessary.”

“My administration has been involved and active throughout the investigation process — both with the Ombudsman’s office and with the Assembly. We have been responsive to the public records requests and within the timeframe legally required to respond, we have fulfilled the public records requests by the Assembly, and provided our responses to the Ombudsman’s suggestions listed in his report,” the mayor said in the statement.

Bronson also said he has asked for Dahl’s resignation. Until Wednesday’s statement, it had been unclear whether Dahl would resign or whether Bronson would fire him. When the ombudsman released his report last month, Bronson officials did not respond to his call for Dahl’s firing, though they responded to his other recommendations.

Assembly leaders on Tuesday said members are up against a December deadline to implement any necessary changes to city code ahead of next year’s election. The Assembly updates the city’s election code annually.

“If we are looking at code changes related to this issue, we need to get the documents and issues ... all out on the table so we can make an appropriate legislative response,” Assembly Vice Chair Meg Zaletel said.

“Hopefully having this tool in our toolbox will let us do that,” she said of the measure.

In a statement sent to the Daily News last week, Bronson said he was informed of Dahl’s involvement in the election complaint in May, and at that time, Dahl was placed on administrative leave.

While Bronson said it’s clear that Dahl did not follow city requirements for implementing new policies, the mayor also defended Dahl’s actions, calling the series of events “extremely unfortunate.”

“I do not see any evidence that Mr. Dahl conducted any illegal behavior,” Bronson said of the ombudsman’s report.

The mayor noted the ombudsman in the report said the policy Dahl attempted to implement is a common practice in government and private organizations.

“From the conversations I’ve had, I firmly believe that Mr. Dahl thought he had identified a potential security risk to our servers and used poor judgment in an attempt to resolve it,” Bronson said.

The policy would require the IT department to authorize the use of USB drives on city equipment and “critical city infrastructure” — which would include election equipment, the observers asserted in their April 11 appeal. Graham and the two other election observers claimed that election workers violated the policy. They asserted that USB drives used by election staff to transfer tabulation results could be intentionally or unintentionally altering data, “thereby nullifying the results of the election.”

For a policy to apply across all city departments, it must first go through a rigorous development process and be signed into effect by the mayor.

“The issue is not about the policy Mr. Dahl attempted to implement; it is the timing in which the events occurred, and the lack of process followed that is in question,” Bronson said.

Bronson also said he had “no knowledge” of Dahl’s development of the USB policy “until it became part of the public record and was reported on.”

The mayor has previously questioned the use of USBs in the city’s election center.


After the 2022 city election, Bronson launched an inquiry, citing complaints from election observers — including Graham. He called for a third-party, out-of-state audit of the city’s election technology, which largely hinged on a visit from a maintenance contractor for the election equipment, who connected a USB drive to fix a technical issue.

In a letter sent to Assembly leaders by attorney Jeffrey Robinson, Dahl refused a request from Constant to attend last week’s meeting for questioning.

Constant also sent a letter to Graham asking her to appear at the same meeting about the incident. She did not attend.

At that meeting, Hess, the ombudsman, told Assembly members that he had recently delivered relevant documents, including photos and videos, to the Office of Special Prosecutions. Emails and documents reviewed by Hess showed that Dahl and IT staff had some conversations about implementing a citywide USB policy, but that conversation went dormant in January — until Dahl revived it on April 11, Hess said.

“It’s troubling that an individual was aware of a policy that had been created that very day,” Hess said. “And so in my mind, it appeared, based on the available evidence, that the director may have insisted that that policy conversation be restarted and the policy be finalized and posted that day to assist Miss Graham in filing an election challenge,” Hess told Assembly members.

Still, it’s not clear exactly what motivated Dahl to send the policy language to Graham, Assembly members have said. It’s also not clear if he knew that Graham would use the policy to question the election results.

“I would like to know at whose direction was ... Graham given an intradepartmental policy? That doesn’t seem to be a common practice. And so who knew that it might be used for this purpose? Or did they know it would be used for this purpose? I find both of those things very concerning,” Zaletel said last week.

An IT staff member told Hess that they had cautioned Dahl against sharing the policy with Graham, Hess said.


“They thought it was inappropriate and advised him not to do it,” Hess said.

Assembly leaders on Tuesday said the administration delayed handing over records related to Graham’s election challenge. That delay is, in large part, the reason for activating subpoena powers, they said.

“We are working on very tight timelines here, and 75 days to produce records just isn’t going to cut it,” Zaletel said Tuesday.

Chief of Staff Mario Bird pushed back.

“I think the charges that the administration is not working with the Assembly to address this is not accurate,” Bird said.

Bronson officials responded to the ombudsman’s report and agreed to several of Hess’ recommendations, such as working with the Assembly to develop and implement city code to address election tampering, Bird said.

A batch of records released by the administration in July showed Dahl emailed Graham the policy language, but many of the emails and document attachments were almost entirely redacted — obscuring why, when and how the IT department began drafting the policy used to challenge the election.

After pressure from Assembly leaders to make the documents public during a meeting last week, the administration turned over most of those documents by Tuesday, Constant said.

Assembly leaders last week called for further public records related to the incident. The administration has not yet produced documents in response the Assembly’s second request.

Tuesday’s action is the second time this year that the Assembly has authorized subpoena powers in the investigation of a top Bronson official. In January, the Assembly took similar action to investigate the hiring and tenure of former Health Department director Joe Gerace. Bronson refused to turn over documents in response to a subpoena and litigation over the matter is underway.

Emily Goodykoontz

Emily Goodykoontz is a reporter covering Anchorage local government and general assignments. She previously covered breaking news at The Oregonian in Portland before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at