Former state Rep. Alan Dick is being order to pay nearly $18,000 related to a series of ethical violations, including temporarily living with his wife and son in his Fairbanks office, using public money for campaign travel and using his staff to prep him for a candidate debate, under a decision issued Wednesday by a legislative ethics panel.
The state House panel, which includes two fellow representatives, was forceful in its criticism of Dick's behavior.
"Representative Dick had a cavalier mindset when it came to conducting the public's business in a manner that preserved the integrity of the legislative process and avoided conflicts of interest," the decision by the subcommittee of the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics said.
Dick, a retired teacher, admitted the wrongdoing in interviews and committee meetings, the panel said in a written statement. If he refuses to reimburse the state for cost of its ethics investigation and for travel expenses, the committee could formally charge him.
Efforts to reach Dick, 67 of Nenana, were unsuccessful.
Dick is a one-term legislator defeated in the 2012 general election. Under state law, the ethics panel retains jurisdiction for five years after a legislator leaves office, according to Joyce Anderson, Ethics Committee administrator.
A complaint about Dick from an unspecified source was made to the House panel on Dec. 12. It contained multiple allegations related to the 2012 election. The panel added one of its own related to his travel to the Alaska Federation of Natives 2012 convention in Anchorage.
In all, the ethics panel investigated eight allegations and dismissed three for lack of evidence. Two of those dismissed alleged that campaign materials were stored in, distributed from or posted in his Fairbanks legislative office. The other one dismissed arose from a campaign stop in Ruby and accused him of threatening to take action against someone related to whether the person would make a contribution to his re-election bid or otherwise provide "a thing of value."
For five other allegations, the panel found evidence of violations:
• Dick, his wife and son lived in his Fairbanks legislative office off and on for a month between mid-October 2012 and mid-November 2012.
"Dick had sleeping paraphernalia in his office for a period of time and was observed by building staff coming and going at all times of the day and night," the ethics panel decision said. Video footage provided by a contractor for Alaska USA Federal Credit Union showed his wife and son stayed there at least once, and he admitted they stayed there. He said he slept there on the couch even in August, the decision said.
He was campaigning all the way up to Election Day, Nov. 6, in his failed bid to win the redrawn House district and the panel concluded he likely performed campaign activities out of that office.
Legislators are allowed to use their Juneau offices during the legislative session and in the 10 days leading up to it or following it for "non-legislative purposes," which could include sleeping, Anderson said. Former state Rep. Vic Kohring famously used to sleep in his Juneau office. But that provision doesn't cover their home districts, Anderson said.
• Dick demanded that one of his legislative aides prepare background materials for a Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce candidate debate. That amounted to three violations, the decision said: misuse of government assets for a campaign, requiring an employee to perform services for a legislator's private benefit while on state time, and requiring an employee to assist in political or campaign activities on state time.
Dick told the committee he was confused about whether the debate was related to his position as a legislator.
The committee found that "a legislator would most definitely be able to distinguish" between a candidate debate and a forum in which a legislator is on a panel addressing a current issue.
Dick was "constantly reminded by staff in 2011 and 2012 that candidate, campaign, political party, and fund raising activities must not be performed in a state facility, with the use of government resources, or by staff on government time," the decision said.
• Dick also repeatedly combined campaign travel with state-funded legislative travel even though that's not allowed, the decision said. He was reimbursed with campaign funds and state funds for the same trips. The criteria for travel was covered during new legislator ethics training before the 2011 legislative session and in legislative ethics newsletters.
"Representative Dick seemed to operate under the premise that rules and regulations regarding legislative travel did not apply to him," the decision said.
The trips at issue included a June 6-10, 2012, elders conference in Nikolai. He flew his own plane there and was paid $705 in state funds and $473 in campaign funds for aviation gas. He also had a meal in McGrath reimbursed from both sources.
A few days later, he drove his own car from Fairbanks to Anchorage for a bill signing ceremony on an act creating an Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council. The Legislature paid $388 for mileage, and his campaign account paid $103 for gas and groceries.
The most expensive trip at issue was the AFN convention held Oct. 17-19, 2012, in Anchorage. The Legislature and his campaign account each paid $251 for a flight to Anchorage and $735.84 for a hotel. He rented a car, and billed the Legislature for an upgrade beyond what is allowed, but also received mileage reimbursement from the Legislature of $194. The campaign paid $31 and the Legislature paid $51 for the same meal.
The committee said Dick must reimburse the Legislature $3,499.68 for "improperly received benefits," which includes all the known improper trips, the decision said. The committee also determined that the investigative costs totaled $14,495.35, counting investigator interviews, investigator travel, transcription services and other fees. The total of $17,995.03 is due by Sept. 1, 2014.
The House panel that investigated Dick was chaired by Gary J. Turner, a Republican from Soldotna who is director of the Kenai Peninsula branch of the University of Alaska Anchorage. Anchorage Reps. Chris Tuck, a Democrat, and Craig Johnson, a Republican and alternate on the committee, also served on it. The other members were Dennis "Skip" Cook, a Fairbanks lawyer who is registered as non-partisan; Antoinette "Toni" Mallott, a Democrat and retired teacher who lives in Juneau and Yakutat, H. Conner Thomas, a Democrat and Nome lawyer, and Herman G. Walker, an Anchorage lawyer registered as non-partisan.
Reach Lisa Demer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4390.
By LISA DEMER