Alaska Governor Sarah Palin today settled a state ethics complaint, filed against her in Alaska last October, by agreeing to pay back the state approximately $6,800 for nine trips claimed for her children to various functions paid for by Alaska's tax payers. [Palin was deemed responsible for a tenth trip on Thursday; the total cost is now closer to $10,000; and she may now owe more back taxes.]
The ethics complaint was originally filed during last year's presidential election by retired electrical lineman Frank Gwartney, from Anchorage, who called the travel expenses claimed by Palin "such a blatant misuse of state money."
A second-generation Alaskan native whose parents arrived on the Kenai Peninsula in the 1930s, Gwartney said he filed the complaint simply because he was "sick and tired of corruption in Alaska's government." He also charged the governor with altering travel records to indicate that her family members were on "official business" while traveling with her.
The response from the McCain-Palin campaign at the time was to attack Gwartney:
This is a purely political stunt less than six days from the election that not only violates the law that requires Personnel Board complaints to be confidential, but raises serious questions about the motives of Mr. Gwartney, a stated Obama supporter. Governor Palin has always acted with the highest standards of ethics.
Today's "settlement agreement," as the document is titled, involves no admission of wrongdoing, blaming the expenditures on "little statutory or regulatory guidance."
Palin contended that her administration viewed the travel expenses as "official First Family business" and that Palin only takes her children on the taxpayers' nickel "to events they're
Nonetheless, according to the Anchorage Daily News, lawyer Tim Petumenos, who was hired by the state Personnel Board to investigate the complaint (and who earlier exonerated Palin in the Troopergate affair), found that for nine trips claimed by Palin for her children, "the personal benefit outweighed the public benefit."
In a letter addressed directly to Gwartney, Puetnomos declared:
Following your complaint, I conducted an investigation and concluded that portions of your complaint merited action. A settlement with Governor Palin has been reached in lieu of the filing of an accusation...
According to Petumenos it didn't matter if Palin's children had been "invited" to an event or not. Included in those expenses where "the personal benefit outweighed the public" was the cost of Palin's daughter Piper flying on a state plane to the start of the Iron Dog race in 2008--a race in which Todd Palin was participating as a contestant.
It has not been a good week for the Last Frontier's ambitious governor. The ethics settlement comes in the immediate aftermath of Palin turning in her state-purchased Chevy Surburban and announcing that she had to pay taxes on reimbursements she received for living in her Wasilla home.
Only yesterday, Palin's chief political flak Bill McAllister held a news conference in which he declared:
The news media have been focused on the $8,500 the governor has collected in per diem annually while working in Anchorage, almost 50 miles from her home in Wasilla. But aside from the fact that the governor is legally entitled to these payments, the media have missed the larger point that the governor actually has saved the state money by not living year-round in the official residence in Juneau....Expense reports for per diem, lodging and travel for the governor and the first gentleman show a savings of more than $900,000 for calendar years 2007 and 2008, compared with the last two years of the previous administration.
Say what? Didn't Palin run against her predecessors as a reformer? And now she's comparing her record to theirs?
In fact, Palin spent more annually in 2007 on "conference fees" and "meals and incidentals" than either of her two predecessors in any given fiscal year.
What Palin, McAllister and those entrenched around her apparently don't get is that the Governor touts herself as a "reformer" and "fiscal conservative," while she herself has tapped the public trough frequently for her family's private benefit. Their hypocrisy apparently knows no bounds.
"Governor Palin ran on an ethics platform," said Gwartney from his home in Anchorage, "but she's no different than the rest of them. Apparently, she thinks she was elected Queen."