Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz (D) resigned on Tuesday after admitting to a consensual yet inappropriate extramarital text messaging relationship with a television anchor, Alaska Public Media reports.
The mayor’s departure is the latest in a scandal involving Maria Athens, a local news anchor who on Friday alleged on her Facebook page that the mayor had posted “his male genitalia” on an underage girl’s website. Athens also shared a nude photo of a man from behind who she alleged was Berkowitz.
On Monday, Berkowitz, a prominent Democrat who was once a state lawmaker and was later elected mayor in 2015, denied the allegations regarding minors, while admitting he had previously engaged in a “consensual, inappropriate messaging relationship” with the anchor.
Investigations by the FBI and Anchorage police reportedly found “no evidence of criminal conduct” by the mayor. In a statement Tuesday, the FBI added that there was “no immediate evidence to support a violation of federal law; however, the FBI Anchorage Field Office continues to monitor the situation.”
Municipal Manager Bill Falsey later said top city officials concluded that “it would be untenable for the mayor to continue in his role,” adding, per Alaska Public Media, that Berkowitz had independently arrived at a similar decision to step down.
Berkowitz acknowledged “unacceptable personal conduct” in a resignation statement that was read at an Assembly meeting on Tuesday.
“It is with profound sadness and humility that I resign as the mayor of the municipality of Anchorage,” the statement said.
“My resignation results from unacceptable personal conduct that has compromised my ability to perform my duties with the focus and trust that is required. I know my conduct has done great injury to my family, my staff, to municipal employees and to the people of our community, and for that I am deeply sorry.”
Berkowitz’s resignation is effective Oct. 23, the mayor’s chief of staff Jason Bockenstedt said.
The mayor’s departure was met by cheers during Tuesday’s Assembly meeting, according to Alaska Public Media. Berkowitz’s decision comes as Anchorage reports record high cases of COVID-19 in a city whose economy has buckled under the pandemic. Many of those in attendance on Tuesday had opposed the extension of the mayor’s emergency powers.
Per Anchorage municipal rules, Assembly Chair Felix Rivera would be next in line to serve as acting mayor.