The Golden Lion Hotel, you may recall, was an item of consternation for Civic Activist Russell Biggs, who from behind the gate of his home located roughly half a mile away from the hotel property, vehemently opposed the city’s purchase of the building. The public anger generated in 2020 over the proposed purchase was not so coincidentally the spark Bronson needed to help launch and bolster his mayoral campaign.

Bronson, as a candidate for Anchorage mayor, told voters that he would sell the Golden Lion Hotel on day one after becoming mayor — a campaign promise that failed to materialize. Instead, WEKA owners Todd and Crystal Herring, who through their various businesses donated thousands of dollars to the mayoral campaign of fiscal conservative David Bronson and the pro-Bronson Independent Expenditure group Open for Business Anchorage, were given a lucrative contract to provide COVID-19 vaccinations, testing and monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatments. WEKA provided this service at the former Golden Lion Hotel.

On March 14, Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance emailed Bronson Administration Officials Municipal Manager Amy Demboski and Anchorage Health Director Joseph Gerace, asking them to provide details about the agreement. Hearing nothing from either of the two, LaFrance then asked Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Cheryl Frasca about the agreement at a March 17 Budget and Finance Committee meeting. Frasca said she had no information to share but emailed LaFrance four days later to let her know that she had checked with Demboski, who indicated that the administration was in the process of responding to her inquiry.

LaFrance had begun seeking information about the agreement at the behest of a concerned citizen who believes the Bronson Administration may have paid some or all of the utilities during the months that WEKA was operating its for-profit business in the former Golden Lion Hotel.

14 days have passed since LaFrance sent her first inquiry to the Bronson Administration, and for 14 days LaFrance has received nothing but deafening silence from the administration.

When Anchorage officials finalized the purchase of the Golden Lion Hotel in December 2020, the city expectedly absorbed the responsibility for paying the associated utility costs. However, at least one individual believes that when the Bronson Administration agreed to allow WEKA to operate its COVID-19 treatment center from within the former Golden Lion Hotel, it was the city, not WEKA, who continued to pay most of the associated utility costs.

The concerned citizen believes that the associated utility costs spanning the time period November 2021 to February 2022 when WEKA was operating out of the former Golden Lion Hotel may have averaged in the vicinity of 8k – 10k dollars a month.

If true, not only would WEKA have profited lucratively from providing the monoclonal antibody treatments Mayor Bronson emphasized over the preventative COVID-19 vaccine, but the for-profit business may have avoided paying roughly $50,000 in utility costs during the time they operated out of the former hotel.

Unknown is whether WEKA was paying ‘rent’ to the Municipality while operating out of the property.

How lucrative is the business of providing monoclonal antibodies?

As detailed extensively by EndPoint News last week, Anchorage resident Scott Selman underwent a double-lung transplant after a disease destroyed his own in 2011. As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 began raging, his transplant team at the University of Washington called and told him there was a new drug available (Evusheld) that might protect him and other immunocompromised against the virus.

Reportedly, Selman looked on a government website for locations in Alaska that provided the drug but only one location showed up in the state, and it was in Juneau.

Selman called around and learned from a state health official that the drug was provided by WEKA in Anchorage. He had never heard of WEKA and their website said little about the drug, but his doctors told him he needed it and he called and scheduled an appointment for the next day.

At the former Golden Lion Hotel, a receptionist reportedly gathered his details and informed him that he would have to pay $550 via credit card before being treated. WEKA then told Selman they would then charge his insurance for another $950. If his insurance did not cover the costs, he would have to pay out of pocket.

Selman told EndPoint News that “he thought it sounded bizarre — thought the whole thing was bizarre, from the repurposed hotel to the upfront cost, to the mysterious absence of WEKA from the government website — but felt he didn’t have a choice but to hand them his Visa.”

“Then things got stranger, Selman said. Evusheld is authorized as two shots in the hip, but a nurse gave him the antibody by IV infusion. Selman, deferential to doctors since they saved his life a decade prior, said nothing. But afterward, he said, his transplant team called and reprimanded WEKA, who said they hadn’t known and recommended Selman come back in 45 days.

Just weeks later, though, he got a call from a state official saying that Weka had shut down. The official pointed him to a site at a nearby mall, where he was given the antibody properly free of charge. He never heard from WEKA for the $950, but they also never refunded the $550 charge.”

“Covid vaccines and drugs are free. But for many immunocompromised patients, protection comes at a cost,” EndPoint News, March 22, 2022

According to EndPoint News’ reporting, AstraZeneca’s representative expressed “alarm” that WEKA provided the drug via IV and submitted Selman’s case to the medical affairs team for examination. Reportedly, WEKA CEO Crystal Herring refused to discuss WEKA’s pricing policy or Selman’s case, claiming patient confidentiality, despite his authorization.

“WEKA was not aware of the potential of any billing or treatment discrepancy of the nature described in your inquiry,” she said in an email. “However, due to the large volume of patients/procedures in a short period of time and the transition of operations and personnel, it is possible that information relative to said raised concerns had not yet reached WEKA management for processing.”

EndPoint News noted that a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Health did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

It’s all very interesting, don’t you think?

Big Bronson campaign donors being gifted a lucrative contract to provide COVID-19 treatments in a former hotel Mayor Bronson said he would sell on day one after becoming mayor? And that perhaps WEKA was given a deal on utility bills while providing COVID-19 treatments at the former Golden Lion Hotel? To say nothing of an allegation that WEKA received a reprimand from Selman’s transplant team after giving him an antibody IV infusion instead of the two shot regimen — and that WEKA kept Selman’s $550 — and that Alaska DHSS ignored repeated requests for comment about the matter?

I don’t profess to know or understand the inner workings of the Bronson Administration, but it seems a relatively small task for Anchorage Municipal Manager Amy Demboski to provide information about the city’s agreement with WEKA to Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance. Her apparent reluctance to do so makes me think maybe Demboski is hiding something she doesn’t want the public to find out.