What follows is an incomplete timeline of instances or allegations of instability, scandal, incompetence, idiocy, malfeasance, deception and potentially illegal activity by the Dave Bronson administration since his election as mayor.
Late May/early June, 2021: Bronson ally Larry Baker contacts municipal attorney Patrick Bergt in an attempt to get domestic violence-related charges against his business partner Brandon Spoerhase dismissed, according to a letter Amy Demboski releases in December 2022.
July 1, 2021: Bronson is sworn in as mayor of Anchorage.
July 30, 2021: Baker receives the first of three $29,500 no-bid contracts as a senior policy advisor, an amount municipal manager Demboski claims was an intentional effort to skirt requirements that such contracts in excess of $30,000 require Assembly approval. Demboski further alleges that the contracts could be a scheme to allow Baker to collect state retirement while effectively being a municipal employee, a potentially illegal arrangement.
Aug. 24, 2021: The Anchorage Assembly rejects library director nominee Sami Graham as unqualified for the position; Bronson immediately declares her his chief of staff and says she will work from the library. This begins a yearlong fight over the library director position, with significant negative effects for both library staff and the public.
Sept. 15, 2021: Nonprofit homeless aid group Bean’s Cafe is abruptly replaced as the administrator of services at the Sullivan Arena mass shelter by a year-old for-profit private company whose owner donated to Bronson’s campaign. The transition is rough.
Sept. 16, 2021: Municipal real estate director Christina Hendrickson is fired after submitting a whistleblowing complaint alleging gross mismanagement and fraudulent use of public funds. A month later, Hendrickson files a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Sept. 24, 2021: Municipal manager Demboski issues a memo declaring that all communications between the Assembly and the administration must go through her office in both directions, setting up a massive information bottleneck.
Oct. 1, 2021: Bronson visits the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility’s Eklutna Water Treatment Plant and illegally orders the shutdown of fluoridation for the municipality’s water supply, reversing himself hours later after being told his action violated city code. The mayor’s office gives no notice of the shutdown to the Assembly or the public, then lies about it when word begins to spread before finally owning up to the incident.
Oct. 7, 2021: An ugly spectacle during a weeklong series of Assembly meetings about a municipal mask mandate in indoor public spaces boils over. Testifiers threaten Assembly members, Bronson orders the removal of a plexiglass safety shield and officials from the mayor’s office send security officers out of the chambers. Demboski orders the termination of the meeting livestream — a request which, thankfully, was denied.
Oct. 9, 2021: Mayor’s office staff and administration allies are involved in a bizarre episode related to the hospitalization and treatment of a conservative activist with a severe COVID-19 infection.
Oct. 20, 2021: After news breaks that a man nearly died at the Sullivan Arena mass homeless shelter due to a lack of medical care, Bronson fires the mass care director for the city’s homeless response. Another top official in charge of homeless aid is removed the same week.
Oct. 22, 2021: Policy director Craig Campbell, who was Bronson’s initial chief of staff until he was abruptly replaced by Graham in August, resigns after just two months into the role.
Oct. 28, 2021: Anchorage homeless coordinator John Morris, who spearheaded the administration’s ill-fated strategy for a navigation center mass care facility, resigns.
Nov. 5, 2021: Judy Eledge, Bronson’s second library director nominee, resigns from the post after the executive council of the Alaska Library Association expresses significant reservations about her leadership and qualifications. Bronson immediately names her deputy library director, and the director position goes unfilled for nearly a year afterward, leaving Eledge in effective control of the institution.
Nov. 30, 2021: Chief Ken McCoy, a 27-year Anchorage Police Department veteran and the first Black chief in the department’s 100-year history, announces he will resign, only a few months after his confirmation to APD’s top post under Bronson.
Jan. 28, 2022: After only five months in the position, Sami Graham resigns as Bronson’s chief of staff.
April 20, 2022: Assembly members learn that for months, the Bronson administration has improperly been following its own budget rather than the one the Assembly passed, despite substantial differences between the two and the overriding of several mayoral vetoes.
May 11, 2022: Office of Equal Opportunity director Heather MacAlpine is fired while investigating workplace complaints against library deputy director Eledge, who made racist comments and presided over a hostile work environment, according to several employees. In June, MacAlpine sues for wrongful termination.
June 15, 2022: HR Director Niki Tshibaka attends a Library Advisory Board meeting wearing a shirt emblazoned with the message “I’M WITH JUDY,” despite his role overseeing an investigation into workplace complaints about Eledge.
June 17, 2022: Municipal attorney Patrick Bergt resigns after less than a year in his position. His appointed replacement, staunch conservative Mario Bird, is later rejected by the Assembly. The position remains vacant nearly eight months later.
June 29, 2022: A slapdash, poorly orchestrated and communicated transfer of homeless residents to Centennial Campground for the summer goes awry immediately, with bear encounters, medical emergencies and inadequate facilities.
Aug. 8, 2022: Anchorage Health Department Director Joe Gerace resigns after questioning by reporters about fabrications in his resume, including his education, work experience and military service.
Sept. 8, 2022: The mayor’s office announces the former Golden Lion hotel cannot be used for homeless services because of the likelihood it will be “taken” in a future highway project, a statement Department of Transportation central region director Wolfgang Junge called “not an honest communication.”
Oct. 7, 2022: Members of the Assembly discover at a work session that the administration illegally green-lit $4.9 million in construction spending on the as-yet-unapproved homeless navigation center near Tudor and Elmore roads.
Nov. 26, 2022: Bronson drives to Baker’s house armed with a gun after a trespassing call there, despite APD officers already responding to the complaint. According to Demboski, Bronson later illegally instructs a municipal employee to investigate the person involved in the trespassing call.
Dec. 11, 2022: Anchorage Police Department data shows that at least 24 people who were likely homeless have died outdoors in 2022, the most recorded in any year since at least 2017, as far back as the data analyzed by the ADN exists. On the campaign trail, Bronson had pledged to not be a mayor who allowed people to freeze to death outside.
Dec. 12, 2022: The second of two major snowstorms in a week exposes the city and state’s inadequate plowing response, and Anchorage schools are closed for six of the 10 days leading up to the winter break. Two months later, many streets and sidewalks are still only partially cleared, with pedestrians and bus riders particularly impacted.
Dec. 19, 2022: Bronson abruptly fires municipal manager Demboski, whom he previously said “runs this city.”
Dec. 20, 2022: Bronson campaign donor McKenna Brothers Paving, contracted to aid in snow removal from Anchorage streets, fuels up its trucks at the municipal fuel depot 97 times (a total of 4,425 gallons of fuel) in a monthlong period. The fuel-ups are not acknowledged and the company is not billed for the fuel until late January, when progressive news blog The Alaska Current makes a records request for the fuel logs.
Jan. 11, 2023: Demboski releases a bombshell 11-page letter accusing Bronson and others in the administration of illegal and unethical behavior, from improper contracts to retaliatory firings.
Jan. 19, 2023: Municipal employees tell Ombudsman Darrel Hess that a mayor’s office executive told them he was monitoring security camera footage to see which employees spoke to the ombudsman or members of the Assembly. Hess alerts municipal prosecutors about the potentially illegal action.
Jan. 20, 2023: Although he was not named by Hess as the alleged executive monitoring security footage, Bronson’s deputy chief of staff Brice Wilbanks resigns — then attempts to rescind his resignation and threatens legal action against Hess.
Jan. 24, 2023: Acting municipal attorney Blair Christensen resigns after nine years working for the city and less than a year in her current role.
Feb. 6, 2023: Human Resources director Niki Tshibaka resigns, citing “an increasingly toxic, hostile, and demoralizing work environment,” which — until the moment of his resignation — he was responsible for maintaining. Among other claims in his resignation letter, Tshibaka says he was only given one day to vet former Health Dept. director Gerace’s fraudulent credentials.
These items aren’t based on disagreements about policy or ideology. They betray an executive who is unqualified, incompetent and out of his depth.
Regardless of the mayor’s political views, this is clearly a failure of leadership.