JUNEAU — Anchorage Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr broke legislative ethics laws by asking her employees to help organize a non-legislative street fair in the Mountain View neighborhood, a legislative ethics committee said Tuesday.
One of Tarr's part-time aides spent more than 120 hours planning the Mountain View street fair with other members of the street fair's organization, according to the House subcommittee of the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics.
State law bars legislators from using government assets and resources for non-legislative purposes. The committee found that Tarr's office's activities provided a "private benefit" to the street fair, though the annual event is free.
The committee decided "no corrective action is warranted," it said in a Tuesday announcement, though it added: "To prevent possible future violations, the committee strongly recommends Rep. Tarr seek guidance of the (Legislature's) ethics office before committing government resources to a project which would provide a clear private benefit in violation of the Legislative Ethics Act."
Tarr responded to the committee in a 430-word statement in which she said Tuesday's findings overestimate the time spent by her office and incorrectly imply that it had a more direct role in fundraising for the fair. But she also acknowledged that "there is no question that we were actively involved in putting this event together."
In the future, she added, "I hope that in interpreting the definition of 'legislative purpose' in the ethics statutes, the committee will recognize the importance of the legislative purpose of legislators' and staff participation in community organizing in our districts."
"An overly-restrictive view of legislators' role in community organizing activities could have a chilling effect on legislators working with local leaders in the community, particularly with community councils," she said. "I believe this work is the heart of the Legislature's purpose."