Anchorage’s first equity chief has reached a settlement in his lawsuit against the city.
Clifford Armstrong III sued the city after Mayor Dave Bronson fired him in October. Armstrong claimed in the lawsuit that he was wrongfully terminated and that the municipality violated city code and breached his contract.
Armstrong said in a statement on Friday that he “got entangled in a larger political and legal dispute related to the chief equity officer position.”
“I am happy with this settlement because it removes me from this dispute,” he said.
Jeffrey Robinson, an attorney representing Armstrong, said the settlement amount was $125,000 and declined to provide further comment.
Bronson wished Armstrong “all the best in his future endeavours,” according to the statement released Friday. Bronson communications director Corey Allen Young said in a text message that the settlement “does not permit (the mayor’s office) to speak beyond the statement.”
Bronson’s administration filed a separate lawsuit against the city assembly last month over the mayor’s right to fire a city official without agency involvement.
[No-shows by Bronson officials at meetings leads to dispute between Assembly members and municipal manager]
The Assembly created the position of equity officer last summer, passing an ordinance with a section of the municipal code that states that the equity officer ‘may not be removed by the mayor except for cause. and only with the agreement of the majority of the Assembly. ”
The administration wants the court to rule that it was a violation of the separation of powers outlined in the Alaska Constitution and municipal charter for the Assembly to create the position of chief equity officer but limit the mayor’s ability to fire anyone serving there at his discretion.
Armstrong was hired by former acting mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson and was confirmed by the Assembly in April last year. Assembly leadership said in October that Bronson’s firing of Armstrong was in violation of city code because the mayor fired Armstrong without Assembly consent and without cause. The mayor’s office said Armstrong’s firing was authorized under the city charter.
In his lawsuit, Armstrong had asked the court to declare the Assembly’s order valid and that the city should reinstate him as director of equity. He had also asked for compensatory damages such as back wages and benefits and for the city to pay his attorney’s fees.
Armstrong was responsible for developing, supporting, and implementing the city’s equity agenda, including working with the mayor’s office and other city departments and agencies to advocate for equitable policies , diversity and inclusion. He received a salary of just over $115,000.
The mayor named Uluao “Junior” Aumavae as his new appointee for the position. Aumavae was born in American Samoa and raised in Anchorage, according to the mayor’s office. He recently worked in Alaska as a Community Outreach Specialist with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Aumavae has yet to be confirmed by the Assembly, according to Assembly Deputy Speaker Christopher Constant.
Armstrong said he believed his report on the city’s affirmative action plan was one of the many reasons he was fired. This report found that the city had not met its hiring and promotion goals for people with disabilities, veterans, people of color and women.
The Assembly established the city’s Office of Equity and Justice, with the position of director of equity at the helm, last summer as protests against police brutality and systemic racism unfolded Across the country. The formation of the new office and position was a proposal by former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz.