The conversation about Joe Miller's departure from the Fairbanks North Star Borough has been marked by a general lack of solid information. Miller says he resigned from his assistant attorney job, but maintains that he can't say more than that because of attorney-client confidentiality. Miller's boss at the borough, Rene Broker, says she can't say anything about Miller's record because of employee confidentiality.
Three news organizations, including Alaska Dispatch, have requested Miller's employment records from the borough. The borough isn't releasing the records to the press until Monday, but it did release them to Miller on Tuesday afternoon so he could review the records prior to their going public.
Miller campaign manager Paul Bauer declined to show Alaska Dispatch the records, which he said totaled about 150 pages, though he did say the campaign was considering the idea of holding a press conference Monday to release the records and explain the contents to reporters. There isn't anything damning in the records, Bauer said, but there are two documents that could be "misconstrued by an untrained eye."
"That's why it requires explanation," he said. "That's why we're not releasing it piecemeal."
Miller, a Republican who is running to unseat U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, has been endorsed by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express, a national group headquartered in California. He worked part-time as an assistant borough attorney from 2002 to 2009. He has said repeatedly that he voluntarily resigned from his job with the borough. At a pro-life fundraiser held Monday at the home of gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker, Miller said definitively, "I was not asked to resign, and I was not fired."
Bauer, a former Anchorage assemblyman, showed Miller's resignation letter to two Anchorage reporters on July 1. A quick read of Miller's letter revealed serious friction between Miller and Broker over a conflict of interest between Miller's public and private work, his work on litigation related to the trans-Alaska pipeline, and vacation time he had requested to go elk hunting on Afognak Island.
Reached by phone, Jim Whitaker, a Republican who was borough mayor from 2003 to 2009, brought up the fact that Miller didn't include his borough employment in his official bio on his campaign website. "When an individual runs for a public office, there needs to be full disclosure," Whitaker said. "You can't just put the things you choose to; you must put all things on it."
Broker, the borough attorney, has continually declined to comment on Miller's performance or his departure from the borough. Albert Parrish, a former assistant attorney with the borough, and Cynthia Klepaski, a current assistant attorney, also both declined to comment on Miller's employment or his reason for leaving.
Speculation about Miller's departure from the Fairbanks North Star Borough first started after Andrew Halcro, a political blogger and an open fan of Murkowski, posted a short note on his blog titled "We Know Palin Quit ... But why was Miller Fired?" The issue of Miller's departure from the borough has since been covered by the Anchorage Daily News, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, and the Associated Press. In a recent column, News-Miner columnist Dermot Cole argued that Miller should release his own personnel records and "drop this flimsy excuse" of "attorney-client privilege."
Bauer is unhappy with the coverage. He doesn't understand all the focus on one piece of Miller's employment history. Bauer also said he's concerned that nobody is reporting on the fact that someone at the borough leaked information about Miller.
"I think the public needs to know about what the borough was doing during the Whitaker administration," Bauer said. "(Miller) didn't toe the line with Rene Broker and Whitaker."
But more importantly, Bauer said, he's angry about Halcro spreading the rumors and nobody calling him on it. Sitting in a leather chair beneath mounted deer and elk heads in the lobby of the Millennium Hotel in Anchorage, Bauer tapped a printout of a well-known photo of Halcro grinning next to Murkowski, the senator's arm around his neck in a friendly embrace. The photo is autographed: "To my dear friend Andrew -- aim high, and always speak the truth. My best, Lisa."
Looking down at the photo, Bauer said, "These two are joined at the hip, and he's the one who's feeding this."
Contact Joshua Saul at firstname.lastname@example.org.