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Ruling in Miller records suit possible this weekend

Chris Freiberg

FAIRBANKS -- A Fairbanks judge is expected to rule this weekend on a lawsuit filed by several Alaska media outlets to obtain more information about Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller's actions while employed by the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

Recently retired Judge Winston Burbank started a process today that could resolve the case ahead of the Nov. 2 election. Burbank was brought in to hear the case after several sitting judges recused themselves or were disqualified from the case.

The judge has several days to review private documents in Miller's personnel file. Miller acknowledged during a CNN interview Monday that he had been disciplined for violating borough ethics policy. Former borough Mayor Jim Whitaker said Miller was almost fired for his actions, which involved using other employees' computers in 2008. Miller disputed the claim that he was almost fired. He resigned for unrelated reasons the following year.

Burbank will rule on Saturday whether public interest in the borough documents outweighs Miller's right to privacy.

That will still give either party time to appeal his decision to the Alaska Supreme Court, Burbank said.

Miller has obtained attorneys Thomas Van Flein and John Tiemessen to oppose the release of further information in his personnel file. More than 100 documents, some heavily redacted and most related to Miller's 2009 departure from the borough, were released by Miller and the borough during the summer.

Tiemessen accused the Alaska media of pursuing further records now "to create a neat story on the eve of the election."

The online news publication Alaska Dispatch, along with the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and the Anchorage Daily News, filed lawsuits against the borough last week. The Associated Press is expected to join the suit.

Whitaker, the former mayor, said last week that Miller was disciplined by the borough in 2008 for using computers in the legal office to engage in "proxy voting" in a failed bid to oust state GOP chairman Randy Ruedrich. Miller's personnel file contains further details about the incident, as well as a letter in which he admits wrongdoing, Whitaker said.

Ruedrich said Oct. 13 that the allegations make no sense, since online voting has no bearing on picking the state chairman. He accused Whitaker of lying.

A Kodiak Tea Party activist and newspaper columnist, Mike Rostad, distributed an e-mail Oct. 14 describing an interview with Miller's father, who said his son had used the other employees' computers to participate in an informal online poll advocating Ruedrich's ouster.

Miller had earlier refused to address the allegations after telling Alaska reporters he would no longer answer questions about his background. On Monday, he CNN told anchor John King that the borough had in fact disciplined him for a "petty issue" that occurred on his lunch hour.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner