Alaska Legislature

Ethics panel hears complaint against Wasilla lawmaker

JUNEAU — A legislative ethics panel met Tuesday to discuss whether an Alaska state representative violated ethics law by disclosing to a reporter the existence of a complaint that was considered confidential.

Republican Rep. David Eastman of Wasilla requested the formal hearing on the probable cause finding, which was released in January by a subcommittee of the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics.

The subcommittee recommended that Eastman lose his seat on the ethics committee and the state House removed him, which he has argued was premature.

Kevin Fitzgerald, an attorney for the ethics committee, said there was overwhelming evidence that Eastman disclosed the existence of the complaint.

The Alaska Journal of Commerce in January reported that Eastman told one of its reporters during an interview in April 2017 that a complaint had been filed against another legislator and suggested the reporter check with the ethics office, which she did.

Eastman's attorney, Tim Petumenos, disputed that characterization of events and said the reporter, Naomi Klouda, lacked notes to back that up.

Klouda did not attend Tuesday's hearing in Anchorage because of medical issues. An attorney who has represented Klouda attended, and a deposition she gave was read for the panel.

Eastman, who has taken issue with the coverage of abortion through Medicaid, was previously censured by the House in 2017 over comments he made suggesting there are women in Alaska who try to get pregnant to get a "free trip to the city" for abortions. Eastman apologized for the comments.