Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski isn't saying much about the departure of fisheries aide Arne Fuglvog, who faces 10 months in jail and $150,000 in fines for breaking commercial fishing laws.
So far she has simply accepted Fuglvog's resignation from her staff, thanked him for years of service on fisheries issues and said he's accepted the consequences of his actions.
But wait a minute. Fuglvog signed a plea agreement back in April, by which he admits guilt for overfishing for black cod and falsifying records about it between 2001 and 2006. If Murkowski knew of his decision to plead guilty last spring, why did she keep Fuglvog on her staff and on the public payroll until now?
It's striking enough that a man who just two years ago was a finalist to head the National Marine Fisheries Service and had served on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council will be going to jail for breaking fishing laws. And it's a sad fate for a fifth-generation fisherman, a man who undoubtedly does know commercial fishing from the deck of a boat in the Gulf of Alaska to the debate in a D.C. conference room.
Murkowski spokesman Matt Felling said she wouldn't comment further because the case is an ongoing legal matter. The plea agreement between Fuglvog and federal prosecutors hasn't yet been accepted by a judge.
Silence can't be the last word, however. If Sen. Murkowski knew of the plea deal and Fuglvog's admission of guilt, Alaskans would expect that she'd fire him. It's one thing to stand by a loyal supporter and aide when that aide is charged with criminal offenses. Even then, aides often resign or go on leave until the matter is settled.
But after April what business did Fuglvog have as a fisheries advisor or a member of Murkowski's staff, drawing a paycheck provided by taxpayers?
We'd say none. What does Sen. Murkowski say?
BOTTOM LINE: Sen. Murkowski says little, but questions about aide remain.