After continuing public disruptions, Anchorage Assembly again postpones vote on process to remove a mayor
By Emily Goodykoontz
At another contentious Anchorage Assembly meeting Tuesday, members again postponed a vote on legislation that would add to city code a process for removing a mayor from office for a “breach of the public trust.”
An effort from Assembly member Jamie Allard to kill the measure altogether failed 6-3.
The meeting was frequently interrupted by attendees, and one man was arrested while the Assembly addressed a separate agenda item celebrating Pride Month.
The meeting also included a heated outburst from Eagle River-Chugiak member Allard, who spoke against a ruling from Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance just before her effort to stop the measure failed.
Members Randy Sulte, representing South Anchorage, and Kevin Cross, Eagle River-Chugiak, supported Allard’s motion to kill the proposal. All are political allies of Mayor Dave Bronson, who has vocally opposed the ordinance. Bronson has compared it to a coup and called it a “blatant attack on the office of the mayor.”
Municipal Manager Amy Demboski speaks with Mayor Dave Bronson during the Anchorage Assembly meeting at the Loussac Library on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant, who proposed it, has said that while the mayor’s actions did prompt him to draft it, he doesn’t plan to try to enact it over Bronson’s past actions. Constant has said he believes Bronson has ignored city code, which is law, in a “substantive way” since the mayor took office.
Assembly leaders have said that the proposal, if passed, is meant to set clear boundaries on the mayor’s power and fulfill a section of the city’s charter that states the Assembly “shall” establish removal processes for elected officials.
The ordinance would add specific steps to city code for removing a mayor, as well as officials elected to service area boards. Similar processes already exist for removing Assembly and school board members. The proposal lists 13 actions that would constitute a breach of the public trust from a mayor.
The proposal has brought an outcry from Bronson’s supporters, who see it as a threat to the mayor and a violation of the separation of powers, and the mayor has issued calls for residents to attend meetings in a show of opposition.
Similar to last week’s meeting on the measure, which saw more than four hours of testimony almost entirely in opposition and frequently punctuated with disruptions, a group of residents again showed up to voice their disagreement, waving flags, holding signs and cheering, jeering and clapping.
People wave flags and show support for Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson during the Assembly meeting at the Loussac Library on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
The Assembly had postponed its consideration to Tuesday night’s meeting after finishing public testimony last week.
Constant on Tuesday urged members to again delay its full consideration until July in order to consider changes and improvements, he said.
Soon after he spoke, Allard urged members to vote for her motion to kill it, saying “the only reason we’re doing this is obviously to get vengeance upon a mayoral seat.” She also said the reason a suggestion to delay it until July had been made was not to make changes to it but to wait until after the June special election of a 12th Assembly member.
“They want that person’s vote,” Allard said.
Constant called a point of order and said that Allard had spoken to motive, which is against meeting rules — members are not allowed to speak to the perceived motives of other members during meeting proceedings.
Allard then spoke out angrily, interrupting LaFrance as the chair ruled in Constant’s favor and as the chair told Allard that she was out of order.
Anchorage Assembly Member Jamie Allard speaks to Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance in a heated exchange during the Anchorage Assembly meeting at the Loussac Library on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
“I’m speaking to my motive of the reason why I believe it’s happening,” Allard said, and LaFrance asked her to stop speaking.
“No, you need stop shutting people down. You’re rude to me,” Allard said to LaFrance. “… It’s enough, you are out of control.”
LaFrance then called for a brief break in the meeting, ending the heated exchange.
Just after that, a man stood at the podium, spoke into the microphone and asked, “Why is the Assembly acting like children?”
LaFrance asked security to remove him, and the man left without protest.
The Assembly will next consider the ordinance on July 12.
Much earlier in the evening, a man was arrested after he interrupted the presentation of an Assembly resolution that recognizes and celebrates June as Pride Month.
Dustin Darden was charged with trespassing when he refused to leave after causing a disrespectful disturbance, according to the chief of police, Michael Kerle, who was at the meeting and who said he asked officers to assist security in the man’s removal.
Dustin Darden, second from left, speaks with Anchorage Police Department officers as they remove him from the Assembly Chambers during the Anchorage Assembly meeting at the Loussac Library on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
Darden, who has been removed from the chambers multiple times for disruptive behavior and sometimes arrested, cut in front of a group of LGBTQ community members to speak at the microphone and said, “I was invited because I’m a letter of the alphabet.”
At one point, Darden was “doing stuff with a hoagie sandwich in front of them,” Kerle said, actions he then described as “inappropriate.”
Chair LaFrance asked for him to be escorted out after he refused to step away from the podium. He was eventually arrested after he refused to leave with security, according to Kerle.
“After the security came over, they asked him to leave politely, he refused and continued to cause a little bit of a disturbance — they asked him again, and again, and again, again, again,” Kerle said.
As officers led Darden out in handcuffs, a handful of the people in the chambers briefly chanted “shame” at police.