Politics & Government

Alaska AG takes aim at Palin era ethics issues

Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan is moving to change the state's ethics rules in the wake of the battles waged by former Gov. Sarah Palin.

His changes would allow the state to pay the legal bills of public officials for defending against ethics complaints that are tossed out. They would also set out when a governor's family members can travel on the state's dime. Those were hot issues for Palin, who said she resigned last July in part because of what she called frivolous ethics complaints.

The attorney general has the power to make the changes without approval of the Legislature. Sullivan released them Monday for a public review that lasts through Jan. 22. His spokesman, Bill McAllister, said they would go into effect after the Department of Law goes through all the public comments and makes any potential revisions.

The proposed regulations say state officials can be reimbursed for reasonable private attorney fees if they are "exonerated" defending against an ethics complaint about conduct on the job. Palin and her top aides faced more than 20 known ethics complaints, most of which were dismissed.

Palin reportedly incurred more than $600,000 in personal legal bills but it is not clear how much of that would have qualified for reimbursement under the rules that Sullivan wants to put in place. Palin supporters set up a legal defense fund to cover her costs but it's in limbo after an investigator hired by the state found "probable cause" that it violated the law. The same investigator, Anchorage attorney Tom Daniel, recommended that the state pay a governor's legal costs for defending against complaints that end up tossed out.

"In the wake of that, Gov. Parnell asked for a review," McAllister said.

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