Joe Gerace’s lies went far beyond Anchorage. Several government agencies are investigating how they were duped.
Joe Gerace lied in more than a well-paying job as head of the Anchorage Department of Health. New reports reveal that Gerace — who resigned from the city on Aug. 8 shortly before Alaskan state media exposed his false medical, educational and military credentials — also successfully deceived a state commission overseeing the EMT training, a state paramilitary organization and the Alaska Department of Health. . None seem to have taken the basic steps necessary to debunk the false claims on his resume, earning him a seat on a state job board, a prestigious volunteer gig, and an EMT license.
An investigation released last month in conjunction with American Public Media showed Gerace falsely claiming to be a medical assistant with two master’s degrees and a high-ranking position in the Alaska National Guard. In fact, he had none of these qualities.
In the weeks that followed, at least four government agencies launched their own investigations to find out how Gerace’s lies went undetected.
The Alaska State Defense Force, a state-run, volunteer-based organization that assists the Alaska National Guard during disasters, expelled Gerace late last month after finding he “misrepresented his qualifications and experience during the ASDF application process and during his time with the organization,” a statement from the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs said.
“I took a few liberties, yes,” Gerace said in an interview in early September. “I’m not proud of it. I’m actually very embarrassed about it,” he said, adding, “there’s no justification for what I’ve done.”
The investigation, led by ASDF Commander Simon Brown II, found that Gerace had falsely told the organization that he had retired from the army after more than 20 years of service with the rank of lieutenant -colonel. In fact, he left after just eight years, mostly in the reserves, as a much lower-ranked E-4 specialist. ASDF procedures require applicants to submit their military discharge documents upon joining, this is how the organization decides what rank they receive and how much to pay when assisting in disaster response . But the organization did not verify their authenticity at the time.
“I want to take full responsibility for having these shortcomings,” Brown said. He pledged to put in place stricter controls in the future. “If you want to come in and say you have certain qualifications, you will have to show proof. And that evidence will be verified at the source it comes from.
Brown determined that Gerace violated four sections of the Alaska Military Code of Justice: fraudulent enlistment, false official statements, conduct unbecoming an officer, and wearing an Army combat patch on his uniform despite he had never seen a battle during his relatively brief military career. These violations could have resulted in a court-martial and jail time, but instead Gerace received a “other than honorable discharge” from the ASDF.
Gerace also misled the Alaska Board on Emergency Medical Services, a board appointed by the governor to provide advice on EMT training and related matters. He named Gerace to a state task force. Among his duties was writing test questions on neurological disorders for paramedic candidates.
The resume he submitted to the medical services board in 2020 falsely claimed he had a master’s degree in business administration, a lie he repeated the following year when he applied for the post of director. of health in Anchorage. Gerace also said he worked for 20 years in Washington State Emergency Medical Services, where records show he was only licensed as a paramedic for two years, from 1991 to 1993.
Gerace has been exaggerating his EMT career for years, records show. A 2003 King County, Washington sheriff’s report describes Gerace impersonating a firefighter when he was arrested for failing to appear before a judge in a child support case.
“When I confronted Gerace in jail about not being a firefighter with Fire District 10, he then said he knew it and just said it, but he really is a volunteer somewhere else but wouldn’t give us that information.” Deputy Jana Wilson wrote in her report. Fire District 10 told him that Gerace had been “let go” years earlier and had “no connection to the fire department”. Wilson also called the state board of volunteer firefighters, which confirmed that Gerace had not been an active volunteer in the state for a decade.
Wilson may have done more to verify Gerace’s claims while executing a routine arrest warrant than Mayor Dave Bronson’s office, the Anchorage Assembly, the city’s human resources department , the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, which oversees the ASDF, or the Alaska Department. Health.
The state health department suspended Gerace’s EMT license amid an investigation and declined to comment further. His application contained now-familiar lies about master’s degrees. He also claimed he had an EMT license in New Jersey, and he included a screenshot of an online license check belonging to a firefighter there who also goes by the name of Joseph Gerace.
“I’m not really happy,” said Gerace of New Jersey upon hearing that someone in Alaska appeared to be impersonating him. “I hope it’s an honest mistake.”
Alaska Gerace is challenging his license suspension. In an interview, he said he met the qualifications to be an advanced EMT, and he suggested that someone other than himself may have completed the state application. He declined to say who.
But Gerace admitted he had a long history of embellishing his CV and had lived in fear of one day being exposed.
“Anyone who cheats on their CV, wherever you are, is a ticking time bomb, and I would recommend that they not do it,” he said.
It looked like his lies might come to light before he was confirmed as chief health officer last year. A former Gerace employee from a previous job warned Assembly members and Mayor Bronson at a confirmation hearing that she suspected her qualifications had been tampered with.
Bronson’s administration said it was investigating how it failed to detect Gerace’s false credentials before he was confirmed despite the former Gerace employee’s warning. In an emailed statement, Corey Allen Young, a spokesperson for the mayor, said, “The investigation is ongoing and is expected to be completed soon.”
Anchorage Assembly Speaker Suzanne LaFrance wants the Bronson administration to provide more information about Gerace’s hiring. Additionally, LaFrance said, City Manager Amy Demboski offered to brief Assembly members on how the administration plans to respond in what LaFrance described as “another situation where a person with information fraudulent identification is proposed by the mayor”.
“We, the Assembly, have drawn up a list of questions in order to be sure that we understand how the situation of a former [health department] director has arrived,” she said. “And to make sure we’re doing everything…reasonable to prevent another situation from happening.”
Assembly staff are also considering whether it could pass an ordinance to strengthen its role in selecting mayoral candidates.
The Assembly’s audit committee, led by member Felix Rivera, is expected to discuss a possible audit of Gerace’s actions as head of the health department at a meeting on September 15.
Alaska Public Media reporter Chris Klint contributed reporting for this story.
This story was produced in collaboration between American Public Media Reports and Alaska Public Media.
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