After Mayor Bronson vetoes measure on subpoena powers, Anchorage Assembly votes to override

Anchorage Assembly members on Tuesday voted to override Mayor Dave Bronson’s veto of an ordinance that changed city code language on the Assembly’s subpoena powers.

During Tuesday’s Assembly meeting, members overturned Bronson’s veto in a 9-3 vote, with members Randy Sulte, Kevin Cross and Scott Myers voting against the override.

A perennial argument between Bronson and the Assembly’s majority over separation of powers resurfaced during Tuesday’s meeting: Bronson claimed that the Assembly expanded its subpoena power with the measure, calling it “extreme overreach by the legislative body,” while Assembly members said they had made minor, clarifying changes to already-existing city code.

“I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding by the mayor of what we did,” Assembly Vice Chair Meg Zaletel said.

City code dictates that the Assembly’s chair, with a majority vote of the Assembly, can issue subpoenas to compel the appearance and sworn testimony of a person whom they reasonably believe could give relevant information.

Assembly members approved the measure earlier this month. Previous city code language said the chair could issue a subpoena for testimony to provide information on matters “involving municipal funds and policy being considered.” The measure changed that language to say that testimony can be subpoenaed for “information relating to a public matter being considered by the Assembly.”

An Assembly chair can only issue a subpoena if the majority of members vote to activate the subpoena powers. The mayor can issue a veto of subpoena power activation, and the Assembly can override a veto with a supermajority vote.


The measure added a clause to make clear that the Assembly chair issues the subpoenas on “on behalf and in the name of the Assembly” and not at the chair’s sole discretion.

“What we’re doing is making it painfully clear, explicitly clear, black-and-white clear that the Assembly can, in fact, subpoena individuals for public purpose based on policies that we’re working on for our budget, not just our budget alone,” Assembly Chair Christopher Constant said.

Bronson said that the changes expanded the circumstances in which the Assembly can subpoena, and said it would have a chilling effect on volunteers for city boards and commissions.

“The reason we have our government divided into three sections — that is, executive, judicial and legislative — is to provide a system of checks and balances. The system fails when one of the three bank branches holds all the power which is exactly what this Assembly is attempting to do,” Bronson said.

Several Assembly members strongly objected to Bronson’s comments, saying that he misrepresented the measure. Member Felix Rivera said, “I absolutely find the mayor’s arguments here to be a farce.”

Assembly subpoenas are, generally, a rarely used tool. Since Bronson was elected in 2021, the Assembly has issued several subpoenas during inquiries into problems within the administration.

It issued subpoenas to investigate Bronson’s hiring of former Health Department director Joe Gerace, who fabricated or overstated credentials and work history on his resume to the city. The Assembly again activated subpoena powers during a recent inquiry into a now-resigned top city director’s involvement in a challenge to the April 4 city election.

Constant last year faced a legal challenge from Sami Graham, a former chief of staff to Bronson, who the Assembly subpoenaed during its election challenge inquiry. Graham’s attorney argued that the Assembly’s subpoena to Graham didn’t relate to matters of municipal funds and policy. (Graham later agreed to testify.)

Graham’s challenge to the subpoena was, in large part, the reason for the measure, Constant said.

“We have had an experience where Bronson’s administration has had actors who have done very abusive things to the public process and we have, in fact, needed to have their testimony so we can understand the genesis of the efforts that were undertaken by these individuals to, in effect, impugn our elections,” Constant said.

Cross, who sided with Bronson, said that the Assembly’s subpoena powers and its process in the election inquiry sufficiently resolved the issue.

“Why, then, are we asking to expand our power or extend them? Because the problem that I see being identified doesn’t exist,” Cross said.

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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