Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson emphatically denounced and vetoed an ordinance which would allow a simple majority of the 12-member Anchorage Assembly to remove any mayor and replace them with a person of their own choosing.
“Since its adoption in 1975, the Anchorage Charter largely preserves to the voters the power to install and remove government officials who serve in the highest levels of Municipal government,” Bronson said in issuing his July 18 veto. “A very narrow carve-out from that retained power is found in Charter Section 7.01, which provides that an elective office holder may be removed from office, by means other than the ballot box, if that office holder has breached the public trust.”
But Bronson said the legally questionable and poorly crafted ordinance was unconstitutional. However, with nine of the 12 Assembly members voting to pass the original measure, the hard-left majority clearly has the votes to override the conservative mayor’s veto.
Bronson blasted the ordinance for failing to establish a clearly defined procedure through which a determination can be made as to whether a duly elected mayor has violated the public’s trust to such a degree that the Assembly can then negate the will of Anchorage voters.
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“I am aware that Assembly members have used this Ordinance as a vehicle to try to send chills through the current administration, and that some members have publicly acknowledged that the ordinance was introduced as a means to erect boundaries intended to circumscribe the legitimate exercise of executive power,” Bronson stated. “I have heard the arguments and discussions that were presented for and against the ordinance, and well understand the disdain that was repeatedly expressed during public testimony. I sympathize with the public’s frustration, however, this is not a reason for my decision to veto this legislation. Nor do I veto this ordinance because the optics are bad or because other elected officials sometimes act in bad faith. I do not veto because the ordinance arises from a partisan effort to attack the executive branch and certain policies with which various Assembly members disagree. To the contrary, I veto AO 2022-60(S), As Amended because it creates specific conflicts with the Municipal Charter, and is therefore unconstitutional.”
Bronson said the ordinance, which was originally introduced by hard-left Assemblyman Christopher Constant, conflicts with the city charter in the following ways:
Inconsistent Assertions/Definitions with the use of “breach of public trust”
The Ordinance crosses the line by stating that a breach of the public trust could happen regardless if the failure to execute a directive is substantial or insubstantial or if the directive for the theoretical mayor to follow is unconstitutional.
The Ordinance states that different conduct is determined for different officials which reveals that it is impractical, and not merely just for of breaches of the public trust. The threshold for the theoretical mayor is not the same for an Assembly member or member of the School Board.
The Ordinance is illogical and impulsive when it defines specific conduct as a breach of the public trust only when committed by specified elected officials but not others. The constitutional requirements of equal protection cannot be ignored.
Delegation of Power Conflict with Municipal Attorney
The Ordinance goes against Municipal Charter that states that the municipal attorney “shall advise and assist the municipal government on legal matters.” This Ordinance is in conflict with Charter Section 5.04 and the separation of powers doctrine.
I have no doubt that the Assembly may hire its own counsel to provide it with advice when it is carrying out its own duties. What it may not do is require that the Municipal Attorney stand aside while some outside counsel is arbitrarily substituted for the Municipal Attorney for the purpose of reviewing an accusation prepared by either the Board of Ethics or the Assembly.
It might be argued that some procedures are needed to address situations in which a Municipal Attorney has a conflict of interest. However, the Ordinance does not deal with instances in which there is a conflict of interest, but rather merely assigns to the Assembly the power to hire an attorney of its choosing to substitute for the Municipal Attorney. That delegation of power is in conflict with Charter Section 5.04.
Heightened due process considerations introduced by Assembly members in this Ordinance are inconsistent with the Assembly amending current Code to reduce the vote to submit an accusation from two-thirds to a simple majority.
The Assembly has ignored its obligation under Charter Section 7.01 for 47 years. Clearly, where the Assembly leadership continually reports to the press that they have no intention to actually use this Ordinance any time soon, there is no basis upon which the Assembly can assert that there is a pressing need to get this legislation into Code, or to continue to be divisive in the process. The Assembly needs to step back and critically examine their effort, taking whatever additional time may be necessary to develop an ordinance that fully complies with the Charter. After 47 years, that amount of time will be insignificant by comparison.
Click here to read the entire veto and rationale.