On Tuesday, the Anchorage Assembly will be holding a work session hearing to review five of Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s candidates. These aren’t opportunities for public input, but ought to be interesting nonetheless.
As I understand four of the five aren’t considered to be particularly controversial (Adam Trombley, Saxton Shearer, Lance Wilber and Christina Hendrickson), but the hearing on David Morgan’s appointment to Director of the Anchorage Health Department will be the one to watch. Notably, the assembly has set aside an hour to review Morgan while everyone else gets 30 minutes.
Morgan had been scheduled for a vote in front of the Anchorage Assembly on Aug. 23, but has now been pushed up to Aug. 10.
“There have been some questions raised about the background of this individual … statements made in the public and on social media certainly raise questions of qualification,” Assembly Vice Chair Christopher Constant told KTUU on Friday about the expedited hearing. “And so that’s what we’ll get to the bottom of here pretty soon.”
Like Bronson who on the campaign trail questioned whether there was even a pandemic in the first place to later claim he misspoke, Morgan has similarly stepped in it only to backpedal later. When asked last week whether the pandemic was still ongoing Morgan said “It’s a personal view kind of thing” and that “pandemic is just an adjective.” After the statements got the expected blowback amid the rising cases that have thrust Bronson’s covid denialism to the forefront, Morgan on Friday conceded “it is a pandemic, if you’re unvaccinated.”
But that’s not all that’s weighing down Morgan’s chances of confirmation. Far more consequential than his tone-deaf public statements are allegations that call into his qualifications and conduct during his time at the head of Choices, Inc.—a non-profit that provides an assortment of services for people with mental health and substance abuse disorders, including those experiencing homelessness. The allegations were detailed in a Twitter thread by Chris Blake, who formerly worked as the director of the agency’s Assertive Community Treatment program (he left the non-profit last year but still works in Anchorage), and range from mismanagement of the agency’s finances to frankly bizarre interactions with employees.
“He’s a menace disguised as a dawdling old man and has no business at all making decisions regarding the public health and safety of those in our community,” Blake wrote in the conclusion of his thread. “An accountant shouldn’t be in charge of public health just as an anesthesiologist shouldn’t be in charge of homeless policy.”
Much of the allegations were confirmed by Choices Inc. CEO Kimm Martinez in a report by the Anchorage Press, who said Morgan had been offered the option of resigning or being fired (he chose the resign option and was escorted out of the building).
Under the procedures for confirmations, the Anchorage Assembly doesn’t hold public hearings specific to the confirmations. Instead, people can sound off during the regular open public testimony at the start of the meeting or reach out to assemblymembers through email or phone.