The Latest Palin Ethics Complaint

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In explaining her decision to resign as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin on Friday said that she was partly motivated to pull out from public office by the flood of ethics complaints filed against her. She said that she has faced fifteen complaints. The Anchorage Daily News puts the count at 18. But whatever it is, her resignation hasn’t stopped the flow. On Monday, Zane Henning, a Wasilla resident, filed a new complaint against Palin.

Henning is not a newbie at this. Last November, he filed a complaint accusing Palin of misusing state facilities when she talked to reporters about her 2008  campaign in her state office. In March, the state personnel board dismissed the matter.

Henning’s most recent complaint is about an old matter: Palin collecting per diem payments from the state for living in her Wasilla home, rather than in the governor’s residence in Juneau. The Washington Post broke this story in September, and Palin’s spokespeople insisted she had done no wrong and that her actions had followed state rules. Not until now has it become the subject of an ethics complaint.

From a press release Henning issued:

“I am charging that the Governor has given herself a raise for personal gain by using the per diem process, which is in direct conflict with Section 39.52.120. (a) of the Alaska Executive Ethics Act,” Henning said. “The State of Alaska provides housing in the state’s capital of Juneau for our Governor, so there should be no extra expense if she desires to stay in her own home. More than a thousand state employees commute from the Mat-Su Valley daily and none of them get to pocket free money.”

The reasons why I am filing this complaint are as follows:

* State travel regulations specify per diem can’t be claimed when travel is less than 50 miles from a state employee’s workplace. Palin works out of her Anchorage office in the Atwood Building which is a scant 45-mile commute from her Wasilla home.

* Palin is exempt from personnel and travel rules which means she does NOT HAVE to collect any per diem ever when working out of her Anchorage office.

* And most importantly, State Statute 39.20.010 distinctly stipulates that the governor’s salary is $125,000. Period. By pocketing this free money, Palin violates Alaska law by giving herself a raise that totals to thousands of dollars….

“The Governor is quitting her job and now more than ever the State of Alaska along with its residents need to be reimbursed for the per diem charges including interest and a fine. Governor Palin is setting precedent for future governors. My hope was that one of our lemming legislators would take a stand and hold Palin accountable for this act, but since that has not happened, it is up to private citizens, like myself, to hold our Governor accountable,” stated Henning. 

As Palin noted, most of the complaints filed against her have been dismissed–though a handful have led to findings that she did violate state rules. There’s no telling if Henning will have better luck with this complaint than his first one. But if Palin keeps her word about leaving office on July 26, ethics watchdogs in Alaska will have Sarah Palin to kick around for only three more weeks.

You can follow David Corn’s postings and media appearances via Twitter.

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