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Borough won’t say if Pierce resignation is linked to recent HR investigation

Aaron Bolton/KBBI
Pierce has been mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough since 2017. This is his second term in office.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s legal department said it hired an Anchorage law firm to perform a confidential human resources investigation last month.

Borough Attorney Sean Kelley sent its contract with the firm in an email to reporters yesterday but declined to share many other details, including whether the legal services had anything to do with Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce, who’s stepping down next month.

Pierce announced his resignation Friday, saying he wanted to focus on his bid for governor. The announcement came days after the assembly held two executive sessions “regarding litigation strategy on a specific legal matter that may have an immediate adverse effect upon the finances of the borough.”

Assembly members say they cannot talk about the meetings. Unlike other assembly meetings, executive sessions aren’t open to the public.

And in his email, Kelley said he also could not comment on any confidential internal investigations. He added there is no settlement agreement that required Pierce to resign, as the political blog The Alaska Landmine claimed.

Pierce told conservative radio host Michael Dukes Monday morning that the allegations made in that story and others were irresponsible and speculative.

Pierce has not responded to requests for comment about his resignation since Friday.

Kelley did say that in July, the borough began a contract with Anchorage law firm Ashburn & Mason to conduct a confidential and internal human resources investigation. Kelley said that investigation was completed that month.

The fee contract is dated July 14 and specifies a billing rate of $350 per hour. It does not say what the work is about.

Any money allocated by the borough in a legal settlement would first have to go through the borough assembly. The agenda for next week’s assembly meeting is not yet online — the deadline for it to be uploaded is tomorrow.

In 2019, the borough paid a $150,000 settlement to a former human resources director, who alleged Pierce fired her after she received a terminal cancer diagnosis.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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