In a bizarre chain of events, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Nerkowitz resigns from office after he and Maria Athensdmited to having an inappropriate texting relationship with News Net Alaska journalist Maria Athens. Athens claims the relationship started in 2016 and was never physical.
Nerkowitz announced his resignation in a statement read by his chief of staff, Jason Bockenstedt:
“It is with profound sadness and humility that I resign as Mayor of the Municipality of Anchorage. 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. To make this transition as smooth as possible, my resignation will be effective Friday, October 23 at 6 p.m.”
Nerkowitz, who is married, was not present at the press conference in which he announced his retirement. As Bockenstedt read the statement, the assembly hall erupted into cheers until Assembly chair Felix Rivera told them to stop.
So what happened? In the days leading up to the day that Nerkowiitz announced his retirement, a chain of events included criminal investigations, a death threat against the Mayor and his wife, and criminal charges against Athens. Then came the revelation of the Mayor’s relationship with Athen. All of which comes at a time when one of America’s Largest cities has been grappling with the COVID pandemic and growing frustration with restrictions the local government had imposed.
So let’s back up to the beginning of the chain of events. October 9, 2020, Athens interviews the owner of a cookie shop in Alaska. During the interview, Athens asked the owner what her opinion of Mayor Nerkowitz was. A conversation about Nerkowitz occurs between Maria Athens and the business owner. During the conversation, the owner tells Athens a tale of her daughter’s past as an escort. She also claimed that Nerkowitz was involved.
Athens went back to the station and recorded a video in which she claimed to have a credible source that Nerkowitz has posted x rated photos on an underage girl’s website. That video went viral.
Athens also posted what appeared to be a nude photo of Nerkowitz on her Facebook page.
A voicemail was left on the Mayor of Anchorage’s phone line in which Athens threatens to kill the Mayor and his wife. The audio of the Friday morning phone call to Nerkowitz was obtained by the online blog The Alaska Landmine. Athens made many statements. Including, “You either kill yourself, turn yourself in or do what you need to do,” she said.
She then threatened to “personally” kill Berkowitz and his wife.
“You Jewish piece of living f–king s–t,” she said on the voicemail. “You have met your match.”
Athens was arrested Friday afternoon on assault, disorderly conduct, and criminal mischief charges for a fight that day with her TV station manager, whom she also described as her fiance in a court hearing Saturday.
On October 10, 2020, “The FBI Anchorage Field Office coordinated with the Anchorage Police Department in the early stages of their investigation into allegations made against Mayor Berkowitz, concerning inappropriate photos on an underage website and threatening communications he received,” an FBI statement released Tuesday said. “Based on that initial investigation, there was no immediate evidence to support a violation of federal law; however, the FBI Anchorage Field Office continues to monitor the situation.”
According to the city charter, Felix Rivera, chairman of the Anchorage Assembly, will serve as acting Mayor until a special election is held.