Palin reimburses state $8,100 for family trips

June 23, 2009 

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has reimbursed the state for more than $8,100 in costs associated with trips taken by her children.

Palin paid the state $8,143.62 on Friday for nine trips taken between January 2007 and February of this year, her attorney, Thomas Van Flein, said Tuesday. Van Flein and state administrative director Linda Perez sent The Associated Press copies of the check and other documents of the transaction.

The reimbursement, which was due today, stems from a Feb. 23 agreement filed by an Alaska Personnel Board special investigator that resolved an ethics complaint alleging Palin abused her power by charging the state when her children traveled with her.

The personnel board found no wrongdoing, but Palin agreed to reimburse the state for costs associated with trips found to be of questionable state interest.

The board's investigator, Timothy Petumenos, said in his report there is little guidance under state rules to determine ethical standards for travel by the governor's immediate family. But he interpreted the law to require that the state pay only if the first family serves an important state interest.

Van Flein noted that Palin had followed historical practices on first family travel and that her travel requests were processed by the same administrators who processed requests for predecessors, Frank Murkowski and Tony Knowles.

"No one challenged Gov. Murkowski's or Governor Knowles' travel practices," Van Flein said in an e-mail. "The rules were, and are, being changed in midstream for Governor Palin. However, as noted in the agreement at the time 'the Governor wants to exceed minimum legal standards.'"

Anchorage resident Frank Gwartney, a Democrat, filed the complaint in late October. The filing closely followed a report by the AP that Palin charged the state more than $21,000 for her three daughters' commercial flights, including events where they weren't invited, and later ordered their expense forms amended to specify official state business.

At the time the complaint was filed, Palin was the Republican vice presidential candidate and after the February settlement called the grievance "an obvious political weapon."

As part of the settlement, the Alaska Department of Law was asked to develop specific rules clarifying when the state should pay for a governor's family travel. That effort is under way, with the goal to have a final draft by the end of the year, according to Judy Bockmon, an assistant attorney general.

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