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Anchorage Mayor Resigns Following ‘Inappropriate’ Relationship with Maria Athens

Αssociated Press

TV reporter Maria Athens interviews Alaska s congressional delegation at an event celebrating the opening of an Indian Affairs Cold Case Office on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020 at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. From left, Sen. Dan Sullivan, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Athens, and Rep. Don Young. (Loren Holmes/Anchorage Daily News via AP)

ANCHORAGE, AK – Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz submitted his resignation on October 13 following his admission of having an “inappropriate messaging relationship” with Greek-American Maria Athens, TV news anchor at a Fox/ABC combined station in Anchorage. The resignation is effective October 23.

According to Athens’ CV, she had previously worked as a news anchor and reporter for New Greek TV (NGTV), reporter and editor at Neo Magazine, and a journalist for the Greek Reporter in Athens, Greece. She earned her BA in Political Science and her MA in International Relations & Foreign Diplomacy at Seton Hall University. Athens also listed herself as a member of St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Las Vegas, NV.

On October 12, Berkowitz, 58, issued the following statement:

“I apologize to the people of Anchorage for a major lapse in judgment I made several years ago when I had a consensual, inappropriate messaging relationship with reporter Maria Athens. I'm embarrassed and ashamed for the hurt I've caused my family and our community. I take responsibility for my actions. A joint investigation into the recent allegations made by Ms. Athens was completed by the Anchorage Police Department and FBI and found no evidence of criminal conduct.

“It takes time to rebuild trust and I hope you afford me the opportunity to do so. During the remaining months of my term, I will continue working on the important issues we face.

“Please consider my family's privacy during this difficult time.”

Athens had posted a video on her Facebook page on October 9, the same day the station barred her from the studio, the Associated Press reported, adding that 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 [Oct. 12], 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 on Oct. 13 said, AP reported, "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 on Oct. 9 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.

Charged with assault, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct, Athens was released on Oct. 12 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.

Requests for comment from Berkowitz through the mayor’s office, and from Athens via Facebook were not answered at press time.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.