State probes email use in memoir by former Palin aide

Sean Cockerham | Tribune Media Services

The Alaska attorney general's office says it's investigating a charge that former Sarah Palin aide Frank Bailey wrongfully used state emails as the basis for his coming book slamming the ex-governor.

Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton Walsh on Friday wrote to Anchorage activist Andree McLeod, who filed an ethics complaint against Bailey in September and has been repeatedly asking since what's being done about it.

"In addition to the ongoing investigation ... this office has been working with Enterprise Technology Services, the state's IT division, to ascertain whether the state is missing emails that are state records and which Mr. Bailey may have in his possession," she wrote to McLeod.

"Please be assured that we take this matter very seriously and are working to ensure that the state has possession of all state records and emails," Paton Walsh wrote.

Bailey did not respond to the Daily News on Monday. He did express confidence to The Associated Press in September, after McLeod filed her ethics complaint, that his "efforts and procedures" had been lawful in preparing his memoir.

Bailey joined Palin's 2006 campaign for governor and was one of her closest aides while she was in office. His book, "Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin," is to be released May 24 by Howard Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster.

Howard Books described it as a "chilling expose."

The book is co-authored by Ken Morris and Jeanne Devon of Anchorage, founder of the website The Mudflats. McLeod charges that Bailey shouldn't have shared the emails with his co-authors that are not available to the general public. She has emailed the attorney general repeatedly in recent months asking what's being done.

She also maintains Bailey broke Alaska's executive branch ethics act. It says former public officials aren't allowed to use information acquired in the course of their work for personal gain if the information hasn't been publicly disseminated.

It's not clear exactly which emails that Bailey has.

Palin and close members of her staff in the governor's office, including Bailey, were known to use private email accounts like Yahoo to conduct state business. McLeod says those are state records and the public should have access to them.

A preliminary draft of Bailey's manuscript was leaked to reporters in February. Bailey wrote that it was put together with the help of more than 60,000 emails he sent or received while working for Palin.

Bailey's book agent has said that Bailey drew on "thousands of emails from the personal accounts of Sarah and Todd Palin as well as key members of the staff." The agent also maintained in a February message that the emails are not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests and won't be part of the batch scheduled to be released by the state later this month.

The state has been reviewing more than 26,000 pages of Palin's official emails for possible release at the end of this month. McLeod and news organizations filed public records requests for the emails in 2008, shortly after John McCain made his stunning announcement that Palin was going to be his running mate in the presidential election.

McLeod has been one of Palin's most vocal Alaska critics and sued in an attempt to stop the practice of using private emails for state business.

An Anchorage judge ruled that "as the statutes are currently written, private e-mail accounts may be used to conduct state business, subject to the same laws and regulations related to preservation as e-mails originating from state servers."

Palin's successor, Gov. Sean Parnell, has said he does not use private emails to do state business.

McLeod wrote the attorney general on Sunday to say she was glad her complaint was being taken seriously. But she said she'd feel more assured if there was a law banning the use of private email accounts to conduct state business. She also said she was disturbed to hear the state might not have all of Palin's official emails.

Call Sean Cockerham at 257-4344 or e-mail