A couple of weeks ago, I did a post on the three bills proposed by members of the Legislature to supposedly “fix” problems with the act. As I discuss in the post, two of the bills, HB 254 (Rep. Bob Lynn) and HB 263 (Rep. Mike Doogan) try to make things more confidential by having complaints dismissed if the complainant exercises his/her free speech rights by even stating that they have filed one. The bills fail to address a much more pressing problem…that the Governor has hiring/firing authority over the very Board that is supposed to hold him/her accountable.
I share a list of reasons why those bills are a bad idea:
1) In Alaska, the general public is not permitted to ask the Attorney General/the Department of Law for an official “decision” on an ethics issue. It can only be done by certain Government Employees, a public officer or their legal representative. The only way the general public can get a LEGAL RULING from the State of Alaska on an issue of ethics is to file a complaint.
2) Ethics complaints from the general public against public officers are based on public information, not employment records, etc., to which the general public does not have access. As there is no airing of information made confidential by Alaska Statute, there is NO REASON for the process not to be completely public.
3) During my experience with the complaint process, I constantly heard the meme from the Palin camp that “If these were ethics complaints against a legislator, mentioning them to the media would have them thrown out.”
According to an amendment to the Legislative Code of Ethics, yes that is true, for now. (covered in number 4)
However, there is a really big difference in how the Legislative Ethics Committee is selected:
The ethics committee has nine members: two senators, two representatives and five public members. The committee is divided into a House Subcommittee and a Senate Subcommittee for the purpose of considering most complaints. Elected officials, who serve two-year terms, are appointed by the leadership of the appropriate body with the concurrence of two-thirds of the full membership of that house. The public members, who serve a three-year term, are selected by the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court and ratified by two thirds of the full membership of the legislature.
as opposed to the appointing/firing authority of the Governor over the Personnel Board.
The current Board has repeatedly demonstrated unprofessional behavior towards the public, has stalled on holding Palin accountable for The Alaska Fund Trust, and there is a tendency of their hired guns to obfuscate and ignore legal precendent in their decisions.
4) As I read the Attorney General’s conclusion, the two House Bills in the Legislature right now could actually violate free speech rights if taken to court. This could even indicate that the Legislative Ethics provision for complaint dismissal could possibly be thrown out if a case ever makes it to court.
5) I mentioned The Alaska Fund Trust earlier. I have checked into it and STILL nothing has happened with the case or it would have been made public. Did anyone notice that if the report had not been leaked to the public, we would never know that THE ALASKA FUND TRUST IS A POTENTIAL ETHICS VIOLATION (if she spends it)?
What’s the Personnel Board waiting for, the two-year statute of limitations to be up on ethics violations so Palin can spend the money?
To me, this is the single-largest piece of evidence that there are MORE PRESSING problems that need fixing with the Executive Branch Ethics process than a lack of confidentiality.
Perhaps…maybe…a lack of accountability?
Today, there is Public Testimony regarding the proposed changes to the Executive Branch Ethics Act:
(H)ADMINISTRATIVE REGULATION REVIEW JOINT COMMITTEE *Feb 08 Monday 3:00 PM CAPITOL 17
+ (9 AAC 52) Proposed Regulations Relating
to Executive Branch Ethics (TELECONFERENCED)
— Public Testimony —
+ (15 AAC 55.280 – 15AAC 55.811) Proposed
Regulations Relating to Oil and Gas Tax
Credit and Heating Value of Gas (TELECONFERENCED)
– Public Testimony –
Anyone can participate in the teleconference at one of the Legislative Information Offices (LIOs) across the state. Click on the link to find one near you, if you don’t live in Anchorage or Fairbanks:
Anchorage Legislative Information Office
716 W 4th Avenue, Suite 200
Anchorage, AK 99501-2133
Main (907) 269-0111
Fax: (907) 269-0229
TDD: (907) 269-0260
Fairbanks Legislative Information Office
1292 Sadler Way, Suite 308
Fairbanks, AK 99701
Fax: (907) 456-3346
TDD: (907) 456-5076
If you cannot participate in the teleconference, here are the members of the Administrative Regulation Review Joint Committee. Please send your comments to each of them (click the links for their email addresses).