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Palin leaves Alaska with a mountain of ethics issues

The raft of ethics complaints against Palin has lawmakers mulling changes to the law, and Palin herself still needs to report a 'garage full' of gifts.

By Yereth RosenCorrespondent / August 11, 2009

In this July 26 file photo, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin gave her resignation speech in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Al Grillo/AP

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Anchorage, Alaska

Sarah Palin is no longer governor, but Alaska is still trying to tie up the loose ends of her time in office.

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A host of ethics issues tied to her term as governor remain unresolved. They range from proposed changes to the state's ethics laws to gifts to Ms. Palin piling up in her garage, still unreported to the Alaska Public Office Commission.

It is the aftermath of an extraordinary time in Alaska politics, as Palin burst beyond the bounds of state politics and became a national – and intensely controversial – figure. Now, the state is struggling to cope with the challenges amplified by her notoriety. Ms. Palin’s representatives say she has incurred a legal bill of over $500,000 for almost two dozen ethics complaints that she and her supporters have characterized as false and politically motivated.

Her financial burden is unfair, agrees State Attorney General Daniel Sullivan, who was appointed by Palin in June. He issued a 19-page analysis last week urging statutory and regulatory changes to the ethics act. Among the significant proposals:

•Sanctions against “bad faith” complaints.

•Empowering the Alaska Personnel Board to summarily dismiss complaints of “habitual” filers “who use the Ethics Act process to harass executive branch employees.”

•Having the state pay for the defense of administration officials charged with ethics offenses.

“[C]itizens may be reluctant to serve in state government – or be inhibited in performing their official duties – if they must bear the cost of defending themselves against unfounded ethics charges related to their state duties,” Mr. Sullivan said in his opinion. The state routinely picks up officials’ legal costs in other matters, he pointed out.

Anchorage Republican State Rep. Bob Lynn is also drafting a new bill that would toss complaints if the complainant breaches confidentiality – as several activists have done by issuing press releases.

Are Palin's problems unique?

But other lawmakers don’t want to change the state ethics act, which was last updated in 2007.

Most Alaska politicians are not likely to face so many complaints because they lack Palin’s penchant for blurring personal and official business, says Don Mitchell, an attorney representing local activist Andree Mcleod, a one-time Palin fan who has filed a pair of lawsuits against her for discussing state business on a private e-mail account.