Saturday, May 02, 2015

Why Don't Anchorage Mayoral Candidates Fill Out The Basic Muni Job Application Form?

Suppose you were hiring someone to run an organization with a  $400 million budget?  Would you ask applicants' PR firms to write you some copy about their clients to evaluate their merits?  Hell no.

But that's what Anchorage voters get from candidates for mayor (and assembly and school board). The Muni just gets their names and addresses. (See Municipal requirements for filing.) The financial disclosure info is fairly complex, and the information on financial interests and campaign donors is important, but doesn't give us the kind of resume information that job applicants normally submit. [Update 5/3/15 though Anon's links in the comments do give us some employer info.]  All we get is what they post on their websites and send to the League of Women Voters.  We get lots of 'interview' in debates, but little basic background data. 

We're left to the mercy of the media to find out what our candidates' careers have been like.  Neither Berkowitz's nor Demboski's websites tell us very much about their education or work experience. 

What would the voters and the media know, from day one, if the candidates had to fill out the same form most municipal job applicants have to fill out? 

MOA job application requires:
  • Criminal Convictions - Have you ever been convicted of any violation of the law, other than minor traffic violations?(A DUI/DWI must be listed.) If yes, provide nature of conviction(s), date(s) and sentence(s). If more space is needed, provide an attachment.
  • Education
    • High School
    • College and Graduate School
    • Technical School
  • Employment History
    • Describe all work history beginning with your current or most recent job. Include volunteer and military experience, including military rank. If necessary, use additional pages or a resume as long as it provides all required information
    • Failure to provide complete and accurate information regarding each job held, including providing misleading or false information, may result in disqualification for the position or termination upon discovery.
    • For each job
      • Job Title
      • Name/Title of Supervisor with phone number
      • Company Name plus city and state
      • Ending pay, hours per week
      • Employment dates from __ to __
      • Reasons for leaving
      • Duties and Responsibilities
  • Then there’s some boxes for:
    • List the types of computer software and programs you have used.
    • List any other special qualifications, skills and/or abilities.
  • List relatives employed by the Municipality of Anchorage  (Name, Relationship, Department)
Reporters and voters wouldn't have to dig to get this basic information that's fundamental in each hiring situation and necessary to compare candidates.

 Instead we get cosmetically enhanced mini-bios, like these from the League of Women Voters whose voter pamphlet is linked from the Municipal election site:
Ethan Berkowitz
Coming to Anchorage in 1990, I started my career in the state criminal appeals court and then working as a prosecutor.  My wife Mara and I are raising our two kids here.
We enjoy Anchorage’s great public schools, first-class trails, and vibrant, diverse community.
I served West Anchorage in the Alaska Legislature for ten years, championing fiscal responsibility and energy development.
As a small business owner with a background in telecommunications, public safety and energy development, I will bring unique experience to the mayor’s office to make Anchorage a safe, secure and strong community.
Amy Demboski Amy currently serves on the Anchorage Assembly representing Chugiak, Eagle River and JBER. Amy graduated from Chugiak High School and holds degrees in Justice and History, as well as an MBA with an emphasis in Finance.
Her background in business development and management give her a practical understanding on how to lead corporations, budget, and measure return on investment. She has held multiple public service positions including commissioner on the Judicial Conduct Commission, Chair of the Municipal Budget Advisory Commission, and Community Council President.
Amy will focus on essential services: public safety, infrastructure, and education, coupled with sound fiscal policy.
Berkowitz doesn't even give his educational background, but at least he is profiled on Wikipedia.  Perhaps he thought Harvard and Hastings College of Law might intimidate people.  But if you are weighing educational background, which candidate's brain do you think got the better workout?  Berkowitz with his Harvard and Hastings or Demoski with UAA and an MBA from an online college based in Alabama?  That's not to say you couldn't get a decent online degree, but if you had applicants with those credentials (and Muni voters do), which way would you lean? 

We don't know, for example, what businesses Berkowitz was involved with and what he did for them?  Nor do we know what  "multi-million dollar businesses" Demboski's website says she built and managed.   And I've only seen hints here and there online that they were healthcare related, specifically dental practices. But I don't have enough information to check with the dentists to see to what extent Demboski's work was what made them 'multi-million dollar businesses.'

The lack of such basic information on the candidates, means it's only in the last week of the election that we're learning that Demboski was in the Air Force, but we don't know for how long or the nature of her discharge.  You'd think someone representing JBER on the Assembly would have her Air Force experience listed.  Why leave it off?  If a Muni job applicant left that information off, they could be eliminated from the pool of applicants, or if hired for the job, fired when it was discovered. 

We're essentially hiring the CEO for a $400 million a year enterprise.  Surely an informed public should have more hard information to base their decisions on than we have.

I'm not sure who has to authorize it (can the Clerk's office do this without Assembly approval?), but I think at the very minimum, all applicants for Municipal office  - mayor, assembly and school board members - should have to fill out a municipal job application form with the same obligations as any other job applicant:
APPLICANT AUTHORIZATION AND CERTIFICATION - I AUTHORIZE the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) to obtain any information relating to the facts provided in this application from schools, employers, criminal justice agencies, individuals, ETC. This information may include, but is not limited to, academic, performance, attendance, achievement, personal history, disciplinary, arrest, and conviction records. 
I DIRECT you to release such information to the MOA regardless of any agreement I may have made with you previously to the contrary.  
I RELEASE any employer, including individuals such as records custodians, from any and all liability for damages of whatever kind or nature which may at any time result on account of compliance, or any attempts to comply with this authorization.
I CERTIFY that the statements contained herein are true to the best of my knowledge. I understand that any incomplete, inaccurate, misleading, false or incorrect information may result in rejection of my application, disqualification from consideration, may render an appointment void and/or can be cause for my dismissal upon discovery.
I AGREE to submit to such tests and physical and/or mental examinations as the MOA may require.
If the Muni can require this of other employees, why not for the top job?  I realize that for regular employees the information collected is confidential and the public as a whole doesn't get the right to verify all the data.  But I know it wouldn't be too complicated to have the same people at the Muni who vet regular employees to check on candidates as well.

Then the public would have real information, not pr puff, with which to weigh the merits of each candidate.  


  1. I like this idea! In the meantime one can refer to the PFODs for some of this information.

    Demboski 2013 PFOD:

    Demboski 2015 PFOD amended:

    Demboski 2014 PFOD: not available online for some reason. Was it even filed (why do I wonder?)

    Berkowitz 2015 PFOD:

    1. Whoops. An auto correct caused error. Public Office Financial Disclosure = POFD. Not sure why it thought that needed to be PFOD.

    2. Thanks for the links - I should have done this myself. They do give some info on employers.

    3. Steve - You could deduce from her financial disclosure that she we was the office manager for Denali Dental Arts in 2014 and that she worked as a paralegal for Shaftel Law Office.

      This is a great idea.

  2. The latest ADN article provides a little more information on the two mayoral candidates.

    Anchorage mayoral runoff closes on social issues, work history

    It includes these details:

    Demboski on management

    In a mailer before the April 7 election, Demboski stated that she “built and managed Alaska corporations.” In debates, Demboski said she spent 20 years in the private sector and her experience includes managing multimillion-dollar corporations.

    Her experience in the dental field dates back to at least 1997, when she was an orthodontic technician in Anchorage.

    A resume provided by her campaign lists management and human resources work at four dental offices and paralegal work at a legal firm dating back to 2005. The campaign did not respond to a request for an in-person interview with Demboski about her business background.

    The campaign also provided a letter of recommendation signed by Todd Christensen, the former owner of Advanced Family Dental Care in Anchorage and Advanced Family Dentistry in Wasilla. The letter, which was not dated, describes Demboski as a “good friend” and said she worked for him for five and a half years, first as a dental assistant and then a project manager.

    Do people need a license for either of those type jobs?

    State of Alaska Commerce Corporations, Business, & Professional Licensing Professional Licensing Dental Examiners
    Board of Dental Examiners

    Hyatt and Demboski do not appear on this list of current and former license holders.


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