The Nome Common Council ended their regular meeting in an executive session Monday night to discuss the ACLU’s preparation to file suit against the City. Nome’s attorney Brooks Chandler phoned into that private session, which followed a regular meeting dominated by a lengthy City Manager’s report.
Nome has been dealing with the potential lawsuit through its insurance company the Alaska Municpal League Joint Insurance Association (AML-JIA), who has rejected the ACLU’s initial offer to settle for a half a million dollars with former NPD dispatcher Clarice Hardy. The ACLU claims that Ms. Hardy’s civil rights were violated by an alleged failure by Nome police to properly investigate her reported sexual assault. Interim City Manager John Handeland explains that Nome does plan to continue the conversation with the ACLU:
“The AML-JIA attorneys were in town and conducted some interviews prior to their response to the ACLU. The insurance company plans to conduct additional interviews.”
Handeland will shortly be relieved of giving those kinds of updates and responsibilities, as the Council approved the contract for their next City Manager, William Glenn Steckman III, by a unanimous vote. Clerk Bryant Hammond read the resolution Monday night for the three-year employee contract with an annual salary of $140,000. Steckman’s contract begins November 11th.
Around that same time, according to the City Manager report, the City also expects to have an outside audit of the Nome Police Department conducted. Greg Russel Consulting is tentatively scheduled to come in on November 11th to review management and work with NPD revising the Operating Procedures Manual. Nome recently used Russel Consulting to conduct background checks for the Public Safety Advisory Commission, and Handeland says they have done similar audits in Haines and Unalaska.
Though Nome Police Chief Bob Estes has submitted his resignation, Councilmember Jerald Brown inquired Monday night if the City could support the Chief’s requests for additional staffing. Handeland says potential funding and budget amendments could be discussed in the upcoming October 28th work session.
“I still want to ask Norton Sound if they can help us with the CSO’s but I think we want to move forward with the additional officers and the investigator.”
There are some outside of Nome who have not been pleased to hear news of the current state of policing. Former City Manager Tom Moran sent a letter to the City Council that berated them for putting “roadblocks” in the way of the public safety department. Moran accused the Council of refusing to acknowledge that they have “created an underpaid, undertrained, understaffed, and underfunded emergency services work- force” .
In his letter, Moran made unspecified claims that the Council broke Alaska Statues and made “backdoor dealings”. Matt Culley of Nome read the letter aloud during citizens comments and inquired why it wasn’t in the packet. Handeland explained he received the letter but did not have a chance to read it before packet publication.
In other matters of public safety, Handeland shared that Norton Sound Health Corporation has written to the City of Nome with the desire to take over ambulance services.
“I’d like to interact with Norton Sound on their plan and motivation and in the mean-time, we have implemented a new stipend structure which was included in the budget. We’re hoping that will result in an increased response but many of the volunteers have expressed that it’s not about the money and the burnout directly relates to the number of calls on Front Street.”
Two other citizens made comments to the Council during Monday’s regular meeting. Aaron Blankenship of Nome noted that the City’s website is confusing, often outdated, and generally inaccessible to most of the public. Multiple city officials agreed with him throughout his comments. Lisa Ellanna, also of Nome, was pleased to see the City recognizing Indigenous People’s Day.
The next regular City Council meeting is scheduled for October 28th.
Image at top: Mayor Richard Beneville signs resolutions after a City Council meeting while City Clerk Bryant Hammond looks on. Photo: Margaret DeMaioribus/KNOM (2016).