As The Blue Alaskan previously and rather extensively documented, since March 14, Anchorage Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance has sought details about the Municipality of Anchorage’s (MOA) lease/use agreement of the former Golden Lion Hotel with WEKA Medical, a Bronson megadonor-owned and apparent for-profit business that the mayor heavily promoted last October for standing up a COVID-19 treatment center in the building over other free options.
Civic activist Russell Biggs, with the help of the super top secret “Save Anchorage” Facebook group and Reclaim Midtown page he administers, vehemently opposed the purchase of the former Golden Lion Hotel. It’s all very interesting, you see, because during his mayoral campaign, David Bronson promised that he would sell the property purchased by the MOA during the previous administration for use as a substance misuse treatment center, “on day one” if he was elected.
Biggs, who had raised a stink over the idea of using the Golden Lion as a substance misuse treatment center, was, as far as I’m aware, silent when Mayor Bronson temporarily gifted the property to a for-profit campaign donor.
The Blue Alaskan can now reveal (because Municipal Manager Amy Demboski finally got around to providing documents to Assembly leadership), that not only did Bronson megadonor WEKA escape paying any utility costs associated with operating their cash cow COVID-19 treatment center at the former Golden Lion Hotel, they didn’t even pay any rent.
Let’s dive in!
The Use Agreement Permit between the MOA and WEKA was effective for 90 days beginning on September 27, 2021 and ended on December 19, 2021.
Perhaps interestingly, WEKA Medical remained in the former Golden Lion Hotel providing COVID-19 treatments until February 25, 2022. This is a strange unexplained oddity considering that a permit extension, which would have allowed WEKA the continued use of the property beyond Dec. 19, 2021, was not included as part of the Bronson administration’s production of documents provided to Assembly leadership.
The Bronson administration probably just forgot to turn that over. Whoops!
Fees associated with the Use Agreement Permit were, of course, waived for WEKA, whose owners Todd and Crystal Herring and through their various businesses donated thousands of dollars to Bronson’s mayoral campaign and a pro-Bronson independent expenditure group chaired by former Save Anchorage moderator Paul Berger.
It’s not even clear under what authority the permit fee was waived, but we do know who the permitter was — the Mayor’s Office — signed right there in black and white by Municipal Manager and full-time Anchorage Public Library Director Amy Demboski!
A spreadsheet created today, April 20, 2022 at 12:23 pm by Tiffany Briggs, the city’s Property Management Officer, itemized the associated utility costs for the former Golden Lion Hotel by bill date and utility company.
The documents reveal that while WEKA was operating at the former Golden Lion Hotel between September 27, 2021 and February 25, 2022, the city was paying tens of thousands of dollars in utility costs.
While it’s understandable that the MOA has been paying utility costs associated with the property since it was officially acquired in December 2020, the Bronson administration did not provide LaFrance with an explanation as to why they chose not to insist that the for-profit business pay their own utility bills. Had the Bronson administration done so, the city could have potentially saved tens of thousands of dollars.
Also of interest is the Memorandum of Agreement between the MOA, Anchorage Health Department and WEKA. The document details that through the city’s emergency preparedness program, AHD made cots, medical carts, wheelchairs and associated equipment available to WEKA in support of the delivery of monoclonal antibody treatments to COVID-19 patients until such time as WEKA was able to procure the resources directly for themselves.
Unknown is whether WEKA did later purchase its own equipment or whether the for-profit business simply continued to mooch off the resources supplied to it by the Bronson administration even after they were making bank by charging patients a premium $550 upfront treatment fee while at the same time, a few miles down the road, Fairweather LLC was providing Monoclonal Antibody treatment for free.
And because with this administration, there’s always one more thing — here’s one more thing.
The Memorandum of Agreement was sent to Municipal Manager Amy Demboski on October 7, 2021 by Grants and Contracts Administrator Derick Temiz. But apparently, and as best I can tell, someone dropped the ball because neither Demboski nor WEKA LLC owner Todd Herring got around to signing it until February, just days before WEKA ceased operations at the former Golden Lion Hotel on the 25th.
When reached for comment about the MOA’s agreement with WEKA, Anchorage Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance responded with this statement:
“After nearly five weeks of requesting information from the administration about the MOA’s arrangement with WEKA, Assembly leadership has received a response. However, the information provided raises more questions. For example, why would the MOA subsidize a for-profit organization that appears to have charged residents of the MOA premium rates for services? Were there other monoclonal antibody providers seeking this subsidy from the MOA? What was the process for selecting WEKA as the recipient of these substantial financial benefits? I look forward to learning how and why the decision was made to allow WEKA to use this MOA facility and equipment for free with utilities paid by taxpayers.”
Hey, so, I’ve worked really hard — anyone know of a hotel I can stay at for roughly five months free and clear? Maybe a property being managed by a supposedly fiscally conservative administration that doesn’t charge for-profit businesses/campaign megadonors rent, permit fees or utilities?
Because I’m just that kind of anonymous blogger, the Use Agreement and Memorandum Agreement can be found below.
Everything I’ve written about WEKA can be found at this link.
This post was updated with a statement from Anchorage Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance.