Palin says ethics inquiries were paralyzing

INTERVIEW: Governor says she resigned because of frivolous complaints.

July 6, 2009 

DILLINGHAM -- Gov. Sarah Palin, three days after abruptly announcing she would resign as governor, said Monday that she did it because ethics complaints and politically ambitious state legislators would have been paralyzing.

"Especially when all these lawmakers are lining up for office. Their desire would be to clobber the administration left and right so that they can position themselves for office. I'm not going to put Alaskans through that," the governor said, wearing a Cabela's fishing bib as she stood on a Bristol Bay beach outside Dillingham.

Palin, who will hand power over to Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell on July 26, said she was particularly frustrated by the ethics complaints filed against her and costs and time involved for the state in dealing with them.

"It's a combination of things that has brought me to this place of knowing. I love Alaskans too much to put them through a lame duck session heading into my final year in office; I was going to be honest and tell them I'm not going to run for re-election. I'm not going to let Alaskans go through a year of stymied, paralyzed administration and not getting anything done. I'm going to let Sean Parnell take this and we will see that things will let up," she said.

"With Sean in the governor's seat it won't be the politics of personal destruction, I don't believe," Palin said.

Palin spoke to the press on Monday evening for the first time since she announced her plans to resign as governor on July 26. National television camera crews flew out to Dillingham to take their turns interviewing her for 10 minutes that she allotted each, one at a time, on the beach.

The sudden and unexpected nature of her decision to resign has fueled runaway speculation about what's really going on, whether it's the start of a presidential bid or the flameout of her political career.

Her husband, Todd, and daughter Piper stood and waited for her to finish, then took the camera crews out to their commercial setnet site on the Nushagak River.

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said after Palin's resignation that she was "deeply disappointed that the governor has decided to abandon the state and her constituents before her term has concluded."

Palin responded Monday by saying there's a double standard. She brought up the fact Murkowski left the Legislature when her father, then-governor Frank Murkowski, appointed her to the U.S. Senate seat he gave up to become governor.

"The double standard that's applied here is a bit perplexing. ... Didn't Lisa Murkowski leave office to go take her dad's seat? (Govs.) Huntsman left, Napolitano just left ... ," Palin said, referring to governors who took positions in President Obama's administration.

Palin said she is embarking on a "different, more effective path" than finishing her term. Asked how, she said she didn't know at this point, other than to campaign for political candidates who represent the values she supports.

"Work hard for others who want to fight for things that Alaska needs and America needs. ... What is good for Alaska, energy independence, our contribution to national security and reining in our own state government, which contributes to reining in our national government, which is what we need. I can do that outside having a title," she said.

Asked whether she planned to run for president, Palin squinted and shook her head, but then indicated she might.

"I can't predict the next fish run much less what's going to happen in a few years. I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm going to keep working hard for Alaska, I'm going to be there for Sean Parnell when he needs me and if the staff and lawmakers, certainly any member of the public needs me, I'm going to do all I can for this state," she said.

Palin said she "can't see that I'm done with politics, I can't see that." But she doesn't know if it will be in public office.

The governor repeatedly returned to the subject of ethics complaints filed against her during her 10-minute interview with the Daily News, saying she spent "most of my day, and my staff, most of their day and the department of law, a lot of their day on the frivolity."

There have been 18 known ethics complaints filed against her. The governor's office said they've been dismissed so far with no finding of wrongdoing, although she did settle a complaint over state-paid travel for her children.

The state personnel board put its cost of dealing with the complaints at about $300,000 -- around two-thirds of which was in addressing the "Troopergate" issue last fall. Palin herself initiated the personnel board investigation on "Troopergate," saying that the state Legislature's investigation of the matter was politicized and she was seeking the appropriate venue to deal with it.

Palin said Monday she didn't view the cost as just the $300,000 for the personnel board -- but rather $2 million for the state. It is a figure her administration now uses -- not meant to be actual checks written by the state but to also reflect time of state employees.

It is a per-hour calculation that the Palin administration put together, involving time spent by state lawyers deciding which public information to release as a result of all public records requests, time spent by governor's office staffers responding to media inquiries about ethics complaints, and time technicians spend on retrieving requested e-mail, among other things.

Palin, asked why she allowed the ethics complaints to consume her so much, said she did not take the complaints personally, and that for her it was about state resources being spent on attacks that followed her run last fall as the Republican vice presidential nominee.

"That huge waste that we have seen with the countless, countless hours that state staff is spending on these frivolous ethics violations and the millions of dollars that Alaskans are spending, that money not going to things that are very important, like troopers and roads and teachers and fish research," Palin said.

Todd Palin, appearing tan and relaxed after a day of fishing, said he was glad about his wife's decision to leave office. He said he watched her go to work every day and deal with public records requests and ethics complaints that he said blocked her progress. Things changed from the bipartisan accomplishments that marked her first two years in office, he said, and he's confident she will find the right path.

Palin, standing on a sunny Bristol Bay beach with fish jumping in the water behind her, said it was an agonizing decision to step down, but she now feels "good and energized and exhilarated" about what she's done. "You can't help but feel great when you know that you just made the right decision and the timing is right," she said.


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

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