State dismisses ethics complaint against Palin aide

NO EVIDENCE: Perry did not misuse time while traveling campaign trail.

June 23, 2009 

The state has dismissed an ethics complaint alleging a close adviser to Gov. Sarah Palin played politics on state time while traveling with Palin on the vice presidential campaign trail and afterward.

The attorney general's office said there wasn't evidence backing up the charge Anchorage activist Andree McLeod made against Kris Perry, the head of the governor's Anchorage office.

The governor's office said this was the 15th dismissed ethics complaint against Palin or her staff.

Palin did agree to settle one complaint by reimbursing the state $8,143 for her children's state-funded travel.

The governor's office, in its Tuesday statement announcing the dismissal, asserted that the state has spent "millions of dollars" in the past two years processing ethics complaints, public records requests and related lawsuits. Asked for a breakdown of exactly how that figure was reached, Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said she was working on consolidating the costs and would provide a breakdown by the end of the week.

The dismissal of McLeod's complaint said there was no evidence "suggesting that Perry misused her state time in any substantial way or did not intend to benefit the public interest when accompanying the governor on her trips."

It said the purpose of Perry going with the governor on the vice presidential campaign trail -- and later to Georgia when Palin campaigned there for Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss -- was to ensure Palin remained in contact with state business.

That required Perry to be at political events, it said.

"We would not have been surprised to learn that, during the fall campaign period, or even the day in Georgia, Ms. Perry did something that may appear to be a campaign activity. But the appearance of impropriety does not establish an ethics violation. ... The record clearly shows that Ms. Perry gave far more of her personal time to the state of Alaska than she may have used state time, if any, for non-state related or unavoidable personal activities," said the dismissal.

It was signed by Julia Bockman, ethics attorney in the attorney general's office. Ethics complaints against the governor herself go to the state personnel board. But the office of the attorney general, who is appointed by the governor, handles complaints against state staffers.

McLeod called the dismissal of her complaint a "whitewash" done in-house by the governor's team.

"Beyond a shadow of a doubt this dismissal demonstrates a breakdown in the complaint process. All the evidentiary documents I have point to Kris Perry campaigning on the public's dime and time," McLeod said.

McLeod has had multiple ethics complaints against Palin dismissed, although, in response to one of her complaints, a personnel board investigator did recommend ethics training for another Palin aide.

McLeod's complaint includes photos of Perry standing next to Palin at what appears to be a Chambliss campaign event in Georgia. The pictures show Perry there as Palin signs autographs and has her photo taken. "She appears to provide services that are campaign related, not state related," McLeod's complaint said.

McLeod has asked for the dismissal to be reconsidered now that she has heard back on public records requests and has "the full and complete set of facts I want to submit."

Bockman told her in an e-mail that there is no administrative appeal process.

"You advised that you would provide the information to us in early May. We did not receive anything. You had more than four months to provide any information you had relevant to your allegations against Ms. Perry but did not submit anything," Bockman said in the e-mail.

The governor's office's statement complains that McLeod filed her ethics complaint even after Perry obtained an opinion from her state ethics supervisor, Linda Perez, saying it was permissible for her to travel as Palin's state liaison.

"It is outrageous to file an ethics complaint against a state employee who sought and obtained ethics guidance in advance," Mike Nizich, the governor's chief of staff, said in the statement. "This is not about ethics. This is not about holding the governor or state employees accountable. This is pure harassment."

Perry added that "these improper actions benefit no one, waste state money and resources, and only seek to damage reputations."

The ethics guidance Perry received before she joined Palin on the campaign trail said that "for the state to pay your travel expenses, the majority of your workday while in travel status should be spent on state business."

The state had planned to pick up the tab for Perry's travel and lodging, Perez, the state director of administrative services, has said. But the state was never billed by the McCain campaign so the costs were calculated from market prices and reported as gifts, according to Perez.


Find Sean Cockerham online at adn.com/contact/scockerham or call him at 257-4344.

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