The Alaska Personnel Board, clearly frustrated with the pile of ethics complaints filed against Gov. Sarah Palin, wants to publicize the cost of dealing with them.
The personnel board members decided at a Wednesday meeting to work with the attorney general's office on how to make public the cost of addressing each ethics complaint, without violating the board's confidentiality rules.
"We've spent pretty close to about a third of a million dollars, and it's getting to be really expensive," said Al Tamagni, a member of the board.
Also Wednesday, the three-member board dismissed another complaint, this one involving Palin and her political action committee, and heard testimony from a woman who asserted fear of retaliation has prevented her from filing a complaint against the governor.
The governor's office said it is the 13th ethics complaint against Palin or her staff that has been resolved without finding of an executive ethics act violation. But Palin has agreed to reimburse the state in order to settle an ethics complaint over 10 state-paid trips taken by her children. A "few more" complaints are pending a decision by the personnel board, the governor's office said.
Andree McLeod, an Anchorage activist who has filed multiple ethics complaints against Palin and her staff, said after the meeting that the board is trying to squash accountability by saying it costs too much.
"The whole way to mitigate all this is for Palin to behave ethically," said McLeod, who filed the complaint that was dismissed by the board on Wednesday.
Valerie Henning told the board that fear of a backlash has prevented her from filing a complaint against the governor's practice of collecting per diem for time spent at her home in Wasilla. Henning's husband, Zane, earlier had an ethics complaint dismissed by the board. His complaint alleged Palin violated ethics law by holding national television interviews concerning her run for vice president from the governor's office.
Valerie Henning brought up to the board the statement that Palin's chief of staff, Mike Nizich, made on April 22 after the filing of an ethics complaint against Palin that was released to the press.
"I hope that the publicity-seekers will face a backlash from Alaskans who have a sense of fair play and proportion. I served six previous governors, and I've never seen anything like the attacks against governor Palin," Nizich said in a press release distributed by the governor's office.
Valerie Henning tried to get board members to suggest some alternative to making the ethics complaint, saying "I'm afraid of retaliation, basically."
Palin spokesman Bill McAllister said Nizich was simply asking that Alaskans who have a "sense of fair play and proportion" speak up about what's going on.
"I don't know what she means by retaliation, but certainly some people have been raising their voices in protest of this abuse of the ethics act," McAllister said. "People make these allegations against the governor and they keep getting dismissed and dismissed and dismissed, and some people are saying 'What's going on here?' "
Pro-Palin bloggers have assailed "ankle biter" ethics complainants in writing and KBYR talk radio host Eddie Burke has gone after McLeod on his show, saying he was going to hunt down evidence she was motivated by not getting a state job.
One of the personnel board members, Tamagni, last fall asked a state attorney if the board could charge attorney fees for Alaskans who file "a frivolous or meritless" ethics complaint. It's not clear how the state would judge a complaint frivolous, but charging for them would require changing the law.
Personnel board members spoke Wednesday about possibly pursuing changes in the law regarding their ethics complaint procedures -- such as changing the "thresholds for investigations."
Ethics complainants in the audience asked board chair Debra English for detail after the meeting, but she curtly brushed them off, saying the meeting was over and she wasn't going to say more.
English also refused to answer when a Daily News reporter asked what the board had in mind. She said the reporter should have come before the board and given public testimony in order to get any questions answered from its members.
Members of the personnel board are volunteers appointed by the governor, although all three of the current members were in place when Palin took office in 2006. Palin last year reappointed English to a six-year term but hasn't had a role yet in either of the two other positions, which have terms expiring in 2010 and 2012.
The governor also has the power to remove members of the personnel board, but only for cause.
Find Sean Cockerham online at adn.com/contact/scockerham or call him at 257-4344.