February 4, 2023

Anchorage Department of Health, Joe Gerace, Department of Health

In a highly unusual move, the Anchorage Assembly on Monday activated its subpoena powers to investigate Mayor Dave Bronson’s hiring of former Department of Health director Joe Gerace.

Gerace fabricated or exaggerated the credentials and work history on his résumé in the city and resigned in August, just before the release of an inquest found he had done so.

The new subpoena powers allow the chairman of the assembly to compel testimony and the disclosure of documents related to Gerace’s hiring and resignation.

“This is a difficult document to defer, but it is a necessary document that must be deferred,” said Chris Constant, the assembly’s vice-chairman, as he unveiled the measure, adding that it was an “unprecedented measure.” ‘ act for the congregation.

In a unanimous vote Monday night, members of the assembly approved the resolution that gave Chairwoman Suzanne LaFrance the power to issue subpoenas for:

• The administration’s internal reports and investigations into the recruitment, review and departure of Gerace.

• All documents and correspondence between officials, including the Mayor, related to Gerace’s hiring, review and departure.

• Any witness who conducted or participated in the administration’s internal investigation.

• Any witness who conducted or participated in the appointment, hiring, review, tenure or termination of Gerace.

The measure was passed with the support of prosecutors in the Bronson administration.

“The reason we requested a subpoena is because there is a constitutional right to privacy for your personnel records under the Alaska Constitution,” Acting Attorney Blair Christensen said at the meeting.

“Mr. Gerace has been vocal in public statements about the potential that he could sue people for defamation or defamation or any type of libel claims. In order to protect the community of Anchorage at large, we felt it appropriate for the congregation to summon the report and then present the content of that report in an executive session.”

LaFrance and Constant said at the meeting that the primary purpose of the action was to try to gain access to a Bronson administration report on Gerace’s hiring.

“What’s important today is the report that details how, what, where and when they examined Joe Gerace’s experience, and we’ll start with that and see where it goes,” Constant said.

Immediately after Gerace’s resignation, Bronson officials said they would launch an investigation into the city’s hiring practices. That investigation was conducted by officials overseeing Gerace’s hiring, including Chief Human Resources Officer Niki Tshibaka and the city’s human resources department.

Distrustful of the government’s investigation, the leadership of the assembly also said its members would launch an investigation and called for internal audits of Gerace’s expenses, as well as the contracts issued and the work done under his direction at the Ministry of Health.

As the Assembly considered Bronson’s appointment of Gerace in 2021, the public made several allegations against Gerace. The demands came mostly from former colleagues and employees whom he had looked after at previous jobs. The allegations related to his behavior in the workplace and included accusations of sexism towards female employees and concerns about qualifications and security. Tshibaka called the allegations false and an attempt at character assassination.

Monday’s action follows several chaotic weeks at city government, which began with Bronson’s firing of former municipal manager Amy Demboski, who later publicly accused the administration of unlawful and unethical conduct, gender discrimination and a hostile work environment.

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