The Municipality of Anchorage is appealing a federal judge’s decision to award almost $2 million to an officer wrongfully fired four years ago, despite more than $1 million in city legal fees spent in the case to date.

A Friday filing by attorneys for the municipality announced its intent to challenge U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline’s award of $1,966,521.60 to former APD Lt. Anthony Henry. A Monday request for further comment on the appeal wasn’t immediately answered by staff at the municipal attorney’s office.

Both sides dispute the grounds for Henry’s April 1, 2015 firing. The municipality claims Henry leaked confidential informants’ names and lied to an investigator, amid an examination of drug dealing and sexual assault within the Alaska National Guard. Henry’s attorneys said he had been trying to help a colleague with a sensitive medical condition, a decision which cost him a 23-year APD career.

The ruling on Henry's award comes after Alaska Public Media reported that another federal judge awarded more than $2.7 million to former APD detectives Alvin Kennedy and Eliezer Feliciano. In a 2017 ruling increasing the award in their racial discrimination suit against the department, Judge Frank Pfiffner described the municipality's legal tactics as Nixonian.

Although Friday’s document doesn’t explicitly lay out the municipality’s legal strategy, it mentions 32 points within Beistline’s decision which attorneys plan to challenge on appeal. Those points include awarding Henry damages based on a projected retirement age of 70 despite his alleged plans to retire at 60, as well as allowing the jury to award Henry damages for mental suffering.

The municipality also challenged Beistline’s allowance of the jury’s $720,000 award to Henry for emotional distress, in violation of state law restricting such awards to $400,000. Both sides concurred that that part of the award was excessive, however, and Beistline reduced it accordingly in his March ruling.

Meg Simonian, an attorney for Henry, called last month’s award ruling a vindication of her client’s case. She added that the municipality didn’t respond to a December request to discuss a settlement — and that in the face of legal fees spent so far on the case, “they do not have the kind of appellate points to justify spending the money.”

Dee Ennis, with Municipal Attorney Rebecca Windt Pearson's office, said Tuesday the appeal in the Henry case was filed as a placeholder on the deadline to do so. She said attorneys for the two sides have met in the past few weeks, and talks about a possible settlement which would end the appeal are ongoing.

The main reason for the appeal, Ennis said, is to address issues Beistline's award decision raised about the municipality's procedures for administrative remedies after an employee is terminated.

"What's important to the city is clarity on the legal issues, which can affect future cases," Ennis said.

Ennis didn't have an updated estimate on how much the municipality had spent on the suit, but noted that Beistline had described the issues disputed in the case as close.

"An appeal is probably the least expensive part of any legal settlement," she said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comment from the municipal attorney's office.

Janis Harper contributed information to this story.

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