Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan has proposed reasonable new regulations to clarify state ethics laws and give state officials a better idea of what's allowed and what isn't. The package includes a fair way of resolving two ethics controversies that erupted when Sarah Palin was governor.
With the proposed rules, the state will reimburse legal expenses if a state official is cleared of the violation claimed by an ethics complaint. Palin was subject to a flurry of ethics cases, most of them groundless, and ran up legal bills of about $600,000.
Rules about paying travel costs for the governor and lieutenant governor's family members will be tightened up. If an event traditionally includes the governor's family, or if a family member is representing the state at an event, or if the event is a youth or family-related affair, the state will pick up the tab. Otherwise, if a governor or lieutenant governor wants family along, he or she must pony up.
Fair enough. Palin faced a complaint on this score, and she reimbursed the state for several of her family members' trips, although no ethics violation was found because state law on the matter was unclear.
As for reimbursing legal expenses, that's fair, too. If there's no violation of the ethics law, the public official in question shouldn't be strapped with legal bills.
However, the regulations don't just open the state checkbook for an public official who accused of an ethics violation. If the official, for example, settles a case by taking "corrective action" -- reimbursing the state for expenses he shouldn't have taken, for example, without admitting any violation of the law -- that's not considered exoneration.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.