Friday, May 08, 2009

Sondra Tompkins' Ethics Complaint Against Sarah Palin Quashed By The Alaska Personnel Board; Brian Kraft's APOC Complaint Against Palin Also Shot Down

An ethics complaint filed by Anchorage resident Sondra Tompkins against Governor Sarah Palin, in which Tompkins claimed that Governor Palin’s role in the political action committee SarahPAC conflicted with her official duties as governor, has been quashed by the State Personnel Board on May 8th, 2009. Thomas Daniel, an independent counsel hired by the Board, announced the decision today.

“I find that the complaint does not allege facts which constitute a violation of the Ethics Act. Therefore an investigation is not warranted. Pursuant to my authority…the complaint is hereby dismissed,” Daniel concluded.

Read the original complaint HERE, and read Governor Palin's full response HERE.

Tompkins specifically complained that the governor abdicated her duties at a critical time -- the end of the legislative session, when she went to Indiana for two events, a Right to Life banquet and a breakfast for families with Down syndrome children. Tompkins claimed that the Indiana trip was partisan, purely to benefit personal interests, had no benefit for the State of Alaska and was in direct conflict with her official duties.

But Daniel, an Anchorage attorney, said that’s a political issue, not an ethical one. “The governor’s decision to leave the state at the end of the legislative session, may have been unwise. But the voters should express their opinion on that subject at the ballot box – not in an ethics complaint,” he wrote. Daniel also pointed out that Governor Palin retained the ability to communicate with other state officials, including members of the legislature, at any time during her trip out of state.

Daniel also disagreed with the allegation that Palin had a "contract" with SarahPAC to work for its interests on national issues, even when those interests don't match Alaska's. "The real purpose of a leadership PAC is to allow nationally prominent political leaders to solicit funds to pay for the expenses associated with traveling and speaking on national issues. It is not al all clear that this will be incompatible with Governor Palin's normal duties as Governor, which include expressing her opinion on a broad range of issues of concern to Alaskans and the nation," he wrote.

Thanks to Conservatives4Palin, we know that Palin's attorney Thomas Van Flein called in to the Eddie Burke Show on KBYR 700AM to discuss the exoneration with Burke. YouTube video of audio embedded below:

A commenter also noted the Eddie Burke has seen ethics complaint spammer Andree McLeod huddling with State Senator Bill Wielechowski. This has raised question about possible collusion between Democratic members of the legislature and these "ethics complainers", particularly in McLeod's case. The fact that Alaska Senate Democrats rejected two of Palin's nominees to replace Kim Elton in Senate District B and dragged out the process for six weeks indicates that Democrats may be more concerned with scoring points against Palin than in doing the people's business.

And there was more good news for the Palin camp on this Friday. The Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) unaminously rejected a complaint that Governor Palin broke the law in 2008 when she publicly spoke out against Ballot Measure 4 (also known as the Clean Water Initiative), a controversial ballot initiative on mining which many believed would have effectively shut down the mining industry in Alaska if it has passed. The complaint had been filed by Brian Kraft, a Bristol Bay lodge owner. Conservatives4Palin is also celebrating this decision.

Perhaps your next question is "When will Sondra Tompkins and Brian Kraft get bills from the state for submitting frivolous complaints?" Sorry, the answer is "Never". Back in October 2008, the Alaska Assistant Attorney General Dave Jones ruled that the state is statutorily barred from charging a fee or requiring a deposit for filing ethics complaints. This means they don't even have the authority to institute a fee of their own volition in the future. The state legislature will have to pass a law permitting them to do it. Some people commenting to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner story support this idea.

I continue to recommend requiring the posting of a deposit or filing fee to accompany an ethics complaint. It should be high enough to deter frivolous complaints; $500 would be about right. If the complaint is substantiated, the money is returned to the complainant; otherwise, the money is forfeited to the state.

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