City Council refuses to share why Kodiak’s deputy city manger was dismissed

Matthew Van Daele holding his daughter on Pillar Mountain. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Van Daele)

Mitch Borden/KMXT

The main topic of discussion at the Kodiak City Council regular meeting last night wasn’t on its agenda. Instead, it was the firing of the city’s former deputy city manager, Matthew Van Daele. Last week, he was notified of his termination abruptly with no explanation after only serving in the position for a little over eight months.

Van Daele didn’t attend the meeting himself, but his wife, Mary Ruskovich voiced her concern and told the council it has a responsibility to look into the reasons her husband lost his job.

“The council has a duty and a moral obligation when they see a rash, impulsive, and emotional decision being made that negatively impacts those in the community and the future of Kodiak. And, they have a duty to step in and say ‘okay, wait, what is going on? We need to deal with this.”

Along with her spoken comments, Ruskovich also delivered an envelope to the council. In it, she said, contained 30 letters of support from Kodiak residents that asked for Van Daele to be reinstated as deputy city manager.

Following Ruskovich’s comments, many people stood up to ask the council to explain why Van Daele had lost his job. Alexus Kwachka was one of them. He’s convinced the city needs to publicly explain the situation

“I think this thing should be totally transparent. We should have an open conversation and get it out in the open because I don’t understand as a community member.”

Kodiak Mayor Pat Branson told the audience the council doesn’t have any right to interfere with city personnel issues according to Kodiak’s charter. She also stated even though the council can’t go into too much detail, the termination of Van Daele was done properly by the Kodiaks city manager Mike Tvenge.

“I can assure the public that in inquiring about this matter and other matters, as well, the situation was done in fairness, procedure, and with the appropriate protocol.”

Councilman John Whiddon empathized with Kodiak residents who are confused and frustrated. But, he urged people not jump to conclusions without knowing all the facts.

“I think if I was on the other side of this dais I would be equally shocked, equally surprised and dismayed. And, probably asking some of the same questions, quite frankly because if you don’t have access to information you always assuming, sometimes, assuming the worst. But, I can say, as the mayor stated, that there are specific restrictions on what the council can or can’t do when it comes to employee matters and we have to abide by those. We have no choice.”

The city doesn’t comment on details pertaining to personnel issues, according to Kodiak’s city manager, Mike Tvenge. Which means Kodiak residents, most likely, will never get the full story behind why Van Daele was fired.


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