Anchorage Assembly approves $250K contract for outside law firm to handle Demboski lawsuit against mayor

In a special meeting Monday, the Anchorage Assembly voted unanimously to hire an outside law firm to defend the municipality against a lawsuit brought by former municipal manager Amy Demboski over her abrupt 2022 firing by Mayor Dave Bronson.

Earlier this month, an attorney for Demboski filed a civil suit against Bronson, the city, and two unnamed individuals over allegations of retaliation, defamation, and discrimination related to her termination. The lawsuit also accuses the mayor and some of his top staff of “wanton disregard and disdain for following law and propriety.” The filing follows an Assembly vote in May declining to pay a $550,000 out of court settlement over the allegations.

In a letter Friday to purchasing director Rachelle Alger, Municipal Attorney Anne Helzer requested the administration issue a sole-source contract for up to $250,000 with Anchorage law firm Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans and Filippi to represent the municipality in the case.

“Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans and Filippi has a legal team with expertise and experience in employment law and has a positive working relationship with the Legislative and Executive Branches,” Helzer wrote.

One of the firm’s principal attorneys, Bill Evans, served one term on the Assembly representing South Anchorage, and ran against Bronson in the 2021 mayor’s race, coming in fourth place in the general election. Most of the firm’s work on the lawsuit will be handled by attorney Clint Campion, former district attorney for the Department of Law’s Anchorage office, who, according to Helzer, has extensive expertise in Alaska employment law.

The administration initially sought to waive legislative approval for the contract, but was rebuffed by Assembly leadership. Monday’s special meeting lasted just over 6 minutes before all 11 members present approved the measure; South Anchorage member Randy Sulte was absent. City officials said the measure needed to be sole-source because the city is required to file a legal response to Demboski’s lawsuit quickly, so “a competitive negotiated proposals process is not possible.”

Another factor is the complexity of the litigation, which the city’s legal department is not presently staffed to handle.


“The municipality doesn’t have the resources to respond to this type of case,” said Bronson spokesperson Veronica Hoxie.

The rate of payment for the firm breaks down to $360 an hour. The $250,000 amount is the total authorized, and will not necessarily be paid out if lawyers reach an expedient resolution.

“Dave Bronson has been a very expensive mayor in the context of lawsuits and litigation,” said Assembly Chair Chris Constant said in an interview Monday, pointing to several other settlements paid out by the administration, including $125,000 to former chief equity officer Clifford Armstrong III, and $277,500 to Heather MacAlpine, the city’s former director of the Office of Equal Opportunity.

Constant was in the majority of Assembly members who voted against settling with Demboski before she filed her lawsuit. He said that might mean more public money is ultimately paid out in the case, but asserted residents have never gotten a full or fair accounting of the truth behind Demboski’s claims, and deserve to know.

“It is a reality that it’s going to cost money,” Constant said. “There are strong arguments towards sunshine. So, what’s the cost for sunshine?”

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Zachariah Hughes

Zachariah Hughes covers Anchorage government, the military, dog mushing, subsistence issues and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. He also helps produce the ADN's weekly politics podcast. Prior to joining the ADN, he worked in Alaska’s public radio network, and got his start in journalism at KNOM in Nome.