Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Alaska State Rep. Sharon Cissna Under Fire For Allegedly Filing A False Income Disclosure Statement With APOC; Complaint Filed By Mark Fish

Note: I sat on this story for a couple of weeks, pending further corroboration. That corroboration is now available HERE.

Don't be completely disarmed by Alaska State Rep. Sharon Cissna's "sweet grandmotherly persona". Beneath that disguise may lie a larcenous streak. Rep. Cissna is now under fire for initially filing a false income disclosure statement with the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC).

Her former opponent, Mark Fish, disclosed this information on Tuesday June 23rd, 2009 during KFQD conservative talk show host Dan Fagan's radio program. Fish stated that he examined Rep. Cissna's statement on March 16th, 2009, and found that she had reported only $8,538 income. Subsequently, Rep. Cissna filed an amended statement showing income of an estimated $82,000. She had reportedly omitted her legislative compensation, which included per diem. The interview with Fagan began about 20 minutes after the start of the program, and the podcast of the program was available HERE for 24 hours starting around 7:00 P.M. on June 23rd. It is purged after another 24 hours and superseded by the next day's archive.

There has been no media coverage of this story. However, Mark Fish has since documented this on his CommonSenseAlaska blog, in this particular post.

The original statement filed by Cissna on March 16th, 2009 can be viewed HERE. It clearly shows only $8,538 declared, in the form of $6,538 from PFD checks to herself and her spouse, and $2,000 to her spouse from Clitheroe. I could not find her amended statement online, but her annual statement for 2007, filed in March 2008, shows income far in excess of $8,538, so it is inexplicable that she would report such a small amount of income on her statement for 2008.

The possibility that Rep. Cissna may have merely left out a digit was raised, but Fish rejects that notion. Fish's concern is that this error could not be accidental; she would obviously know that she made more than $8,538. Consequently, Fish believes that Rep. Cissna is guilty of perjury, and so he filed a complaint against her with APOC. After filing his complaint, he notified Rep. Cissna by e-mail per regulation, and he reported that Rep. Cissna got back with him and recited a litany of excuses, to include the fact that "she was in a hurry", "she was on the House floor and distracted", "didn't have access to all necessary source information", and "it was on the filing deadline day". Yada, yada, yada.

After Rep. Cissna filed her amended disclosure forum, APOC then contacted Fish and asked him if he wanted to drop his complaint. There were two penalties which could have been assessed: A finding of a violation of civil code with penalty, or a finding without a penalty. However, because of the perceived possibility of perjury, Fish wanted to forward the complaint to the Attorney General for investigation of possible perjury, because he cannot believe such a gross error could be accidental.

Mark Fish then disclosed that he attended the APOC hearing about his complaint on Thursday June 18th. Although the hearing was open to the public, no media was present. During the hearing, Rep. Cissna provided the same explanation of her actions that she had earlier provided to Fish. However, according to Fish, Rep. Cissna also reminded APOC that the state legislature provides funding to APOC. Fish believes this constituted an implicit threat to APOC.

Fish also believes that Cissna also wants to de-emphasize the fact that she has been one of the top legislative consumers of per diem during her tenure in the legislature. Looking back at the numbers for 2008, 2007, and 2006, they show that Rep. Cissna is in the upper half of lawmakers when it comes to long-term per diem, which was the only consistent per diem variable at the time (long-term per diem was abolished in the latest pay raise for lawmakers, who were given a larger base salary to compensate instead).

Mark Fish was the Republican challenger to Democratic incumbent Cissna back in 2008, and Cissna defeated him without too much trouble. Fish has not declared any intent to run against Cissna in 2010 yet, so I don't believe there is any political opportunism involved. Rep. Cissna was first elected to represent District 22 in the State House in 1998, and has survived every re-election challenge since. There have never been any prior accusations of any irregularity directed against her, so at this point, any allegations of deliberate malfeasance continue to be unsubstantiated.

There's another reason why Mark Fish decided to push this issue. In this other post, Fish states, "I am pursuing Cissna's violation of an oath because our troops deserve a government that is held to the same standard our service members hold themselves to... . Don't just say 'I support our troops'. Demand our elected officials be held to the same high standards as our military". This was in response from a letter he received from one of our troops in Iraq. Fish himself is a military veteran.

What's appalling is that all the ethics complaint spammers who've been stalking Sarah Palin completely missed this development. This is a strong indication that Sarah Palin has been subjected to a higher and harsher standard than other Alaska officials. And while the Alaska public has been re-directed towards an unnatural preoccupation with Sarah Palin, the Alaska State Legislature, in its customary hiding place down in Juneau, racked up one of its most dismal performances in history during the 2009 session, passing only 14 percent of proposed bills. Instead of passing meaningful legislation, lawmakers chose to grant official recognition to the "marmot", hold Senate District B hostage without a senator for six weeks, and involuntarily out anonymous bloggers. Only a handful of lawmakers even so much as pretended to work on the public's behalf.

Two things are necessary to correct this problem. First, relocate the legislature from Juneau to Anchorage to improve public scrutiny and accountability. And second, purge the career crud from its ranks and replace it with citizens who will serve the public. For the first time, I find it appropriate to advocate some form of term limits for state lawmakers; no more than two consecutive terms for senators, and no more than three consecutive terms for representatives. This would be modeled similar to Anchorage's term limit rules for Assembly members and School Board members. This rule would still allow lawmakers to continue serving the state for many years, but would require them to stand down for a term from time to time to recharge their own batteries, reconnect with the constituency, and allow fresh blood into the mix.

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