Anchorage mayor resigns after admitting to relationship with TV anchorwoman

The mayor of Alaska's largest city submitted his resignation Tuesday evening, four days after an anchorwoman at a local television station threatened to report he had posted nude photos of himself on a website.

Ethan Berkowitz, a native of San Francisco who attended UC Hastings Law School, adamantly denied her allegations, but on Monday admitted he had an inappropriate relationship with Maria Athens, the anchor at a Fox/ABC combined station in Anchorage.

"It is with profound sadness and humility that I resign as mayor of the Municipality of Anchorage," he said in a statement read at the Anchorage Assembly meeting by his chief of staff, Jason Bockenstedt, and later emailed to the media.

"My resignation results from unacceptable personal conduct that has compromised my ability to perform my duties with the focus and trust that is required," Berkowitz wrote.

Berkowitz, 58, noted that his conduct did great injury to his wife, their family, his staff and the people of Anchorage.

"For that, I am deeply sorry," he said.

A small but vocal crowd stood and cheered the resignation, which is effective Oct. 23.

The saga that has been the buzz of Anchorage started when Athens posted a video on her Facebook page Friday, the same day the station barred her from the studio. In the video, she claimed she would break a story that night claiming Berkowitz posted nude photos to an underage website. She later also posted what she said was a photo of the mayor's nude back side. 

Berkowitz's office immediately denied the unsubstantiated allegation. A day later, Anchorage police said they and the FBI investigated and found no evidence of criminal conduct. 

Audio of a profanity - and racist-laden voicemail also surfaced late Monday, in which a woman who identified herself as Athens and who rattled off her network affiliations threatened to kill Berkowitz, who is Jewish, and his wife. The audio of the Friday morning phone call to Berkowitz was obtained by the online blog The Alaska Landmine.

"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."

Athens was arrested later Friday after trespassing in the television studio after being told she could not return there. She allegedly accosted the station manager, who charging documents identify as her boyfriend, and she was arrested by police. Her story never aired.

Athens was charged with assault, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. She was released Monday after posting bail.

According to the city charter, Felix Rivera, chairman of the Anchorage Assembly, will serve as acting mayor until a special election is held. 

Messages left with Berkowitz through his office, with Athens through Facebook and with station management have not been returned to The Associated Press. 

Berkowitz was elected to his second three-year term as mayor in 2018. The non-partisan position is limited to two terms.

Berkowitz is also a lawyer and Anchorage businessman. He served as a Democrat in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1997 to 2006, serving the last two years as minority leader.

   AP-WF-10-14-20 0530GMT