U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller was placed on administrative leave for 15 days and suspended without pay for three days in March 2008 for using co-workers' computers at the Fairbanks North Star Borough in an effort to influence Republican Party politics, according to records released Tuesday by the borough under court order.
In March 2008, just days before the Alaska Republican Party's annual convention, Miller was hosting a poll on his personal website, joemiller.us, that was aimed at ousting party chairman Randy Ruedrich. On March 12, while other employees were at lunch and Miller was alone in the office, he used three of his co-workers' computers to vote in his own poll. He tried to cover up the deceit by clearing the caches on the computers, the records show.
In a March 17, 2008 e-mail to his borough attorney Rene Broker, Miller admitted to the allegations against him:
Over the lunch hour this past Wednesday, I got on three computers (not belonging to me) in the office. All of them were on and none of them were locked. I accessed my personal website, for political purposes (participated in a poll), and then cleared the cache on each computer. I did the same thing on my computer. Jill asked the office what happened. I lied about accessing all of the computers. I then admitted about accessing the computers, but lied about what I was doing. Finally, I admitted what I did.
The 60 pages of e-mails, memos and other documents released to Alaska Dispatch as a result of a lawsuit against the Fairbanks North Star Borough paint a picture of a stressed-out Miller who was caught doing wrong.
Borough officials initially considered whether what Miller had done was a crime -- a felony as well as a misdemeanor -- but settled on disciplining him for violating ethics rules. Miller offered to resign. He was placed on administrative leave March 13 and then suspended for three days without pay at the end of the month. He was ordered to complete mandatory employee counseling and was placed on six months probation. Miller was told that any further infractions would result in his immediate termination.
Miller, who is locked in a tight three-way race for Senate with incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Democratic challenger Scott McAdams, has been stalling release of the records since July and last week fought their disclosure in a public records case filed by news media.
Alaska Dispatch sued the Fairbanks borough on Oct. 11, arguing that the documents detailing Miller's past employment as a part-time borough attorney should be available to the public. The Fairbanks Daily-News Miner filed suit later that day, and the Anchorage Daily News and The Associated Press joined the consolidated cases as intervenors.
State Superior Court Judge Winston Burbank reviewed the documents in Miller's personnel file and on Saturday ordered the borough to release most of them. Some have been withheld or redacted because they contain medical information or other material that the judge considered to be privileged. Burbank was tasked with evaluating whether the public's right to know outweighed Miller's right to privacy. In ordering the release of the records, Burbank found that Miller's Senate candidacy made him a public figure.
Among the documents released Tuesday are those detailing the events surrounding Miller's politicking on borough time in March 2008. Alaska Dispatch first reported the allegations that Miller was reprimanded for using borough computers as part of an attempt to oust Ruedrich on Oct. 10, and immediately followed the story with the public records lawsuit.
Miller has long been a political crony of former Gov. Sarah Palin, and in March 2008 was assisting in her effort to get Ruedrich booted as GOP party chairman, a political takeover that ultimately failed. Palin and Ruedrich had been at odds before, famously in 2006 when Palin, then an Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission commissioner, discovered that Ruedrich, also a commission member while state party chair, was conducting Republican business out of his state office.
She exposed Ruedrich's ethical lapses, forcing him to resign, and then used her reputation as a corruption fighter to bootstrap her way into the governor's office.