The head of Anchorage’s Office of Information Technology, Marc Dahl, has resigned.
“Mr. Dahl has respectfully resigned from his position as the director of information technology for the Municipality of Anchorage to pursue new career opportunities,” Mayor Dave Bronson said in a statement provided by his office Wednesday. “We thank Mr. Dahl for his service to the community and wish him the best of luck.”
The mayor said last week that he’d asked Dahl to step down.
For months, Dahl has been at the center of an investigation involving allegations that he and a close Bronson ally, former chief of staff Sami Graham, tried to interfere with results of April’s municipal election. As the Daily News reported in May, after ballot returns broke overwhelmingly in favor of Assembly candidates not aligned with Bronson, Dahl violated city policies by adding an unvetted security policy change to an internal city webpage. Graham and two other election observers then immediately cited that improperly created policy in an objection, using it as a basis to challenge the validity of the April 4 election.
Dahl’s resignation comes more than a month after the conclusion of the city ombudsman’s investigation into the circumstances behind the election challenge.
A report from Ombudsman Darrel Hess released in August concluded that he “reasonably believes that there may have been a violation of state election statutes,” and referred the investigation to the state Office of Special Prosecutions. The report also called on Bronson to fire Dahl.
Up until last week, it wasn’t clear whether Bronson would fire Dahl or ask for his resignation.
The Assembly, at a meeting last week, voted 9-3 to pursue potential subpoenas over the incident. The next day, Bronson released a statement saying that he’d asked for Dahl’s resignation.
The mayor also called the Assembly’s action “an extreme measure” and “completely unnecessary,” saying his administration has been active and responsive throughout the investigation processes by the ombudsman and the Assembly.
Assembly leaders said they’re under pressure from a December deadline to institute any new election protections ahead of the spring city election. Subpoena powers could help the Assembly to get information from those involved and public records faster, they said.
Through his attorney, Dahl declined to speak to the Assembly at a work session scheduled for earlier in September, citing the ombudsman’s criminal allegations.
“Mr. Dahl vehemently denies the Ombudsman’s allegations of civil and/or criminal misconduct,” attorney Jeffrey Robinson wrote in an Aug. 30 letter to Assembly Chair Christopher Constant.
Robinson on Wednesday declined to comment on Dahl’s situation.
Dahl is not receiving a severance, the mayor’s office said Wednesday.
Email records show that, on the morning of April 11, Dahl instructed IT department staff to add a policy statement on USB drives to the department’s intranet page. Shortly after, he emailed the policy language to Graham. She and the other two observers then quoted the policy verbatim in their appeal, filed that same afternoon, on April 11.
Bronson, in comments last week, defended Dahl’s actions, saying he sees no evidence that Dahl’s actions were illegal. However, he also said it’s clear that Dahl did not follow city requirements for implementing new policies.
“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 in a statement.
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” in May. At that time, Dahl was placed on leave, Bronson said.
In their appeal, Graham and the two other observers asserted that the USB drive policy just added by Dahl that day would apply to election equipment. They said that thumb drives used by election staff to transfer tabulation results could be intentionally or unintentionally altering data, “thereby nullifying the results of the election.”
Constant had also asked Graham to attend a meeting earlier this month, but she did not appear.
Assembly members have said Dahl’s exact motivation for sending the policy to Graham is not yet clear. It’s also not clear that he knew Graham would use the policy to question the election results. And it’s not clear if Graham knew the policy had just been added to the internal webpage by Dahl that day, and that it hadn’t been signed into effect by the mayor.
(For a policy to apply across all city departments, it must first go through a development process and be signed into effect by the mayor. Also, those policies don’t necessarily apply to election staff, who operate under the municipal clerk as a part of the Assembly branch of city government.)
Constant on Wednesday said that Assembly leadership intends to push for answers to the lingering questions.
He questioned why it took more than a month for Bronson to reach a decision — publicly — about Dahl’s employment.
“Thank you, mayor, for finally doing what only the mayor can, because this is his employee,” Constant said. “But it certainly raises a number of questions about what’s the mayor’s role in all of this, right? That’s the ultimate question. What is the mayor’s role?”
Veronica Hoxie, spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, said in a Wednesday statement that Bronson had tasked the law department and human resources to work together and resolve the situation with Dahl.
“Conversations like that take time. Discussions around Mr. Dahl’s resignation began prior to the Assembly’s work session earlier this month, and as the Mayor stated at the Assembly meeting last week, Mr. Dahl was out of cell service for some time which added to the delay,” Hoxie said. “Mayor Bronson had no knowledge of the events that took place until the situation was brought to his attention in May, as he’s publicly stated.”
According to the Bronson administration, Dahl worked for the city for seven years.
[Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the name of Marc Dahl’s attorney. His attorney is Jeffrey Robinson.]