Politics & Government

Alaska ethics committee reprimands senator for implied threat to withhold funds

The Legislature's Ethics Committee has found probable cause that Sen. Albert Kookesh broke state ethics law by implying he would deny state funding to Craig if the City Council there opposed a bill to give land to the Native corporation Kookesh works for.

The committee recommended that Kookesh, a Democrat from Angoon, write a letter of public apology to the City of Craig. That's the only penalty being recommended by the ethics panel. Under legislative ethics rules, Kookesh must comply with the recommendation within 20 days or request a hearing to appeal the decision.

The committee said he has to take responsibility in the letter for "a poor choice of words which implied he would use his senatorial power to block funding for capital improvement projects for the City of Craig" unless the council favored the lands bill.

"The letter must be concise, factual and address the ethics violation and nothing more. The verbiage must stay on point and not debate whether he agrees with this finding nor how the public or media may have misconstrued his words ... Further, the letter of public apology must contain a commitment that in the future Senator Kookesh will not imply use of his senatorial power to obtain a favorable outcome of an issue before the Craig City Council or any other elected body or organization," said the ruling released Tuesday by the ethics committee.

The committee said it's important that Kookesh realize that his words at the Craig City Council meeting "resulted in a widely held public perception" that he had violated ethics law, and that the ethics committee had found he did indeed violate the statute.

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