Sitka Police Chief Jeff Ankerfelt gives a tour of the police station on May 17, 2018. (Courtesy Photo | James Poulson, Sitka Sentinel)

Sitka Police Chief Jeff Ankerfelt gives a tour of the police station on May 17, 2018. (Courtesy Photo | James Poulson, Sitka Sentinel)

Sitka police deny allegations of retaliation against employee

Officer says department limited his responsibilities after whistleblowing

The Sitka Police Department is denying allegations that it retaliated against one of its employees for whistleblowing, according to court records filed earlier this month.

In August, SPD Officer Ryan Silva filed a lawsuit against the department, making a variety of claims including secretly purchasing automatic weapons, covering up a sexual assault and retaliating against him for supporting a co-worker who alleges sexual harassment. The defendants are the City of Sitka, SPD and SPD Chief Jeff Ankerfelt.

In a response filed Sept. 13 through lawyers Michael Gatti and Megan N. Sandone of Jermain Dunnagan & Owens, PC, the defendants claim they did not punish Silva unfairly.

“Answering defendants deny they have retaliated against Plaintiff for any reason,” the attorneys state in the response.

In a legal complaint filed Aug. 20, Northern Justice Project, LLC, attorney James J. Davis stated that the department violated Alaska Statute 39.90.100-39.90.150, known as the Alaska Whistleblower Act. This statute states that public employers can’t punish an employee for reporting an issue of public concern. In this situation, Davis wrote, Silva was punished for reporting the secret purchase of five automatic weapons and for aiding in the investigation of sexual harassment allegations against the department from Silva’s significant other, Mary Ferguson (another officer in the department).

The complaint alleges that Silva reported to city administrator that the department was buying automatic weapons without the department having a policy or training associated with automatic weapons. After that, according to the complaint, Ankerfelt and SPD Lt. Lance Ewers carefully examined Silva’s timesheets to look for violations and reduced Silva’s overtime despite Silva’s timesheets being accurate. Silva was then reassigned to patrol instead of investigating violent crime cases, the complaint alleges. Silva is still employed by the department, but is on administrative leave.

Silva’s complaint was wide-ranging and made a variety of claims, and the defendants’ response addressed many of them. For many of the complaints, the defendants claimed that they didn’t know enough about them to claim that they’re true or false, according to the response.

This Monday, Davis filed a response to the city’s answer, claiming that it “failed to properly admit or deny a huge number of plaintiff’s allegations.” Some allegations, Davis wrote, were totally ignored in the defense’s response. Among these, as pointed out in an email from Davis to the defense attorneys, is Silva’s assertion that he came to Ankerfelt when he learned about the automatic weapons and that Ankerfelt ignored the concerns.

Davis’ motion Monday was to ask the court to deny the defense’s answer on the grounds that it didn’t do a good enough job responding to Silva’s complaints.

A hearing is set for Nov. 1 in Sitka, according to electronic court records, and Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens is assigned to the case.

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

More in News

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File
The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014.
Aurora Forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of March. 19

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, March 21, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This September 2015, photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows an aerial view of adult female Southern Resident killer whale (J16) swimming with her calf (J50). New research suggests that inbreeding may be a key reason that the Pacific Northwest’s endangered population of killer whales has failed to recover despite decades of conservation efforts. The so-called “southern resident” population of orcas stands at 73 whales. That’s just two more than in 1971, after scores of the whales were captured for display in marine theme parks around the world. (NOAA Fisheries / Vancouver Aquarium)
The big problem for endangered orcas? Inbreeding

Southern resident killer whales haven’t regularly interbred with other populations in 30 generations.

Juneau Brass Quintet co-founding member Bill Paulick along with Stephen Young performs “Shepherd’s Hey” to a packed house at the Alaska State Museum on Saturday as part of the quintet’s season-ending performance. Friends of the Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum sponsored the event with proceeds going to the musicians and FoSLAM. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Top brass turns out for event at State Museum

Free performance puts a capt on a busy season.

Alaska’s state legislators are slated to get the equivalent of 6,720 additional $5 bills in their salary next year via a $33,600 raise to a total of $84,000 due to a veto Monday by Gov. Mike Dunleavy of bill rejecting raises for legislative and executive branch employees. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)
Veto negates rejection of pay hikes for governor, legislators

Dunleavy clears way for 67% hike in legislative pay, 20% in his to take effect in coming months

On Thursday, the Alaska State Board of Education approved a resolution that supports barring transgender female students from participating in girls’ sports. (Getty Images illustration via Alaska Beacon)
State school board supports barring transgender female students from participating in girls’ sports

On Thursday, the Alaska State Board of Education approved a resolution that… Continue reading

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
State Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, asks Randy Bates, director of the Division of Water for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, about state water quality regulations some fish hatcheries are calling harmful during a Senate Finance Committee meeting Friday. The meeting was to review the DEC’s proposal to take over responsibility for many federal Clean Water Act permits, claiming it will be more responsible and efficient for development projects. Some of the senators questioned both the cost of the state taking over a process currently funded by the federal government, as well as the state’s ability to properly due to the job within the guidelines for such a takeover.
Wading into rule change proposals affecting clean water

National PFAS limits, state takeover of wetlands permits raise doubts about who should take charge

Guy Archibald collects clam shell specimens on Admiralty Island. Archibald was the lead author of a recently released study that linked a dramatic increase of lead levels in Hawk Inlet’s marine ecosystem and land surrounding it on Admiralty Island to tailings released from the nearby Hecla Greens Creek Mine. (Courtesy Photo / John Neary)
New study links mine to elevated lead levels in Hawk Inlet

Hecla Greens Creek Mine official ardently refutes the report’s findings.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, March 18, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read