Assembly: Employee Made Harassment Claim Against Pierce

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Pierce was asked to consider voluntarily resigning as Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor after a borough employee made what were deemed to be credible claims of harassment against him, according to a statement from the borough Assembly.

Pierce's campaign late last month said Pierce would resign effective Sept. 30 to “focus full time on his campaign” for governor. The campaign at the time said Pierce had “earlier committed to stepping down" after the Aug. 16 primary.

Pierce did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press Tuesday. But in a statement Monday to Anchorage TV station KTUU, he said: “As with any confidential personnel matter, I am not at liberty to discuss this issue. My resignation was planned contingent on the primary election results and was communicated over 5 weeks ago.”

The borough Assembly released its statement Sunday, the same day it opted against releasing an investigation conducted in July by an Anchorage law firm into the allegations, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Assembly members said keeping the complainant anonymous would help ensure that employees feel comfortable in raising any future workplace complaints.

The statement said the firm provided to the borough attorney its report that "found the claims credible.”

The Assembly on Aug. 23 met in executive session to provide the borough attorney direction around mediation and settlement ranges, the statement said. The mediation process will seek to resolve the matter and avoid costs associated with a “threatened lawsuit," according to the statement.

“As part of a potential mediated resolution, Mayor Pierce was asked to consider submitting his voluntary resignation because a voluntary resignation could provide greater opportunity for pre-suit resolution of this dispute in that it could provide a meaningful return to work opportunity for the complainant, which is the foremost focus of the internal process under Borough policy,” the statement said.

The statement does not discuss that point further.

Pierce announced his plans to resign days after the executive session discussions and days after the release of additional election results that showed Pierce and running mate Edie Grunwald advancing to the November general election.

Pierce, who with Grunwald finished fourth in the primary, has not participated in recent debates.

The race for governor also features Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Democrat Les Gara and independent Bill Walker, a former governor.