THE BLOG

Alaska's Joe Miller: 'I Was an Ass. I Was Beyond Stupid'

10/27/2010 06:41 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller was at times stressed, paranoid and deceitful during his employment with the Fairbanks North Star Borough, according to records released under court order Tuesday afternoon.

When he got caught doing something wrong -- using his colleagues' computers to advance his own political interests -- he lied about it repeatedly and at one point suggested it was his colleagues, not him, who had in fact broken borough policy, the records show.

Miller worked at the borough from 2002 to 2009 as a part-time attorney. Many records show he was a high performer -- achieving pay increases and exceptional performance reviews, and earning a master's in economics that the borough helped pay for. He was instrumental in litigation involving valuation of the trans-Alaska pipeline, which carries more than 10 percent of U.S. domestic oil production. He was so good, in fact, that his value to the case spared him the embarrassment of being fired when he broke the borough's ethics code, according to former borough Mayor Jim Whitaker.

But while Miller's public achievements may have been rosy, newly obtained records show a much different scenario was playing out behind the scenes. The story is woven throughout dozens of pages of his borough personnel file and e-mails involving Miller, documents that were released by the borough Tuesday after first Alaska Dispatch and then other news media went to court to force their disclosure.

Miller, who is locked in a tight three-way (Read "Joe Miller admits to lying but do Alaskans care?") race for Senate with incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Democrat challenger Scott McAdams, has been stalling release of the records and last week fought their disclosure in a public records case filed by news media.

He did not respond to a request for an interview for this story.

In March 2008, Miller was placed on administrative leave for 15 days and suspended without pay for three days after getting caught using co-workers' computers in an effort to influence Republican Party politics. He was also required to undergo mandatory counseling.

Miller has long been a political crony of former Gov. Sarah Palin, and in March 2008 was assisting in her effort to get Randy Ruedrich booted as the Alaska Republican Party's chairman -- a political takeover that ultimately failed.

Palin and Ruedrich had been at odds before, famously in 2003 when Palin, then an Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission commissioner, discovered that Ruedrich, also a commission member while state GOP chair, was conducting Republican business out of his state office. She exposed Ruedrich's ethical lapses -- forcing him to resign and resulting in a $12,000 state ethics fine -- and then used her reputation as a corruption fighter to bootstrap her way into the governor's office.

Miller's personnel file includes documentation and a more serious view of the actions Miller has described in recent weeks, including on national TV as "petty" and irrelevant to the issue of who is best suited for office.

Miller: 'I was an ass. I was beyond stupid.'

Just days before the Alaska Republican Party's 2008 convention, Miller was hosting a poll on his personal website, joemiller.us, that was aimed at ousting Ruedrich. On March 12, while other employees were at lunch and Miller was alone in the office, he used three of his co-workers' computers to vote in his own poll. He tried to cover up the deceit by clearing the caches on the computers, the records show.

Miller's scheme was revealed by his own attempts to cover his tracks. When he erased each computer's cache he also erased important passwords and IDs that the other attorneys needed to access legal research websites. Miller's co-workers knew something was wrong when they couldn't log on after lunch.

In the short span of time the employees were trying to get to the bottom of what had happened, Miller lied no less than four times:

* He told them he'd had to use another computer because he couldn't access the website he needed to get to on his.
* He claimed he had to clear the cache or the website might block his access.
* He initially denied being on more than one computer
* And he claimed he was visiting a professor's website at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

In a written account of events offered by one of Miller's co-workers -- identified in an earlier records release as "employee 3" but now known to be Jill Dolan, Miller's acting supervisor at the time -- Dolan states that the office staff felt none of what Miller was saying made any sense and that he was acting bizarre.

Miller had also been talking about threats he had recently received, but wouldn't offer specific details. Dolan also didn't trust his stories about the computer use because he had, some time earlier, been asking a lot of questions about accessing the computer servers and wanting to make sure they were safe from hackers.

He insisted his colleagues were "overreacting" and even attempted to shift the blame to them.

"He maintained the whole time he did not violate the computer use policy and that actually all of us did for not securing our computers," Dolan wrote.

Miller was immediately placed on administrative leave and notified that an investigation would ensue. Unhappy about that prospect, he indicated he would rather resign than undergo that process or face being fired, according to notes in his file made by his supervisor.

Miller eventually came clean.

"I was an ass. I was beyond stupid," he said according to notes in the file. It was a "lapse of judgment" and a "total screw up."

He had "too much on his platter" and was having problems with his wife because he was "too flipping busy," according to the notes.

In a March 17, 2008 e-mail to one of his supervisors, borough attorney Rene Broker, Miller formally admitted to the allegations against him:

Over the lunch hour this past Wednesday, I got on three computers (not belonging to me) in the office. All of them were on and none of them were locked. I accessed my personal website, for political purposes (participated in a poll), and then cleared the cache on each computer. I did the same thing on my computer. Jill asked the office what happened. I lied about accessing all of the computers. I then admitted about accessing the computers, but lied about what I was doing. Finally, I admitted what I did.

I acknowledge that my access to others' computers was wrong, participating in the poll was wrong, and there is absolutely no excuse for any of it.

Nine days later, the borough disciplined Miller for inappropriate conduct and inappropriate use of computer and network resources.

"You accessed three Legal Department employee computers for a non-borough purpose and then you were dishonest both about your conduct and the reasons for your conduct," wrote Broker in a memo outlining Miller's punishment. "It has been apparent in the last several months that you are under significant stress and it has affected your judgment as evidenced by your actions on Mar. 12, 2008."

When asked in early April how he was doing, Miller indicated he had to find a way to be less busy. "I'm fine but need to slow down," he told Broker in an e-mail.

According to then-borough mayor Jim Whitaker, who earlier this month publicly revealed Miller's politicking after Miller refused to discuss it himself, the incident was far from minor.

"It's not petty, particularly if you are an attorney and if you have potentially broken laws in the course of your business. That is not petty," Whitaker said in a recent interview. "I think there is a pattern of deceit."

Read more of this story at AlaskaDispatch.com