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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Palin Settles Ethics Charges - Finding of No "Knowing Violation"

It has just been announced that Sarah Palin has entered into a settlement with the Alaska Personnel Board regarding the Alaska Fund Trust, which was established to help Palin defend ethics complaints by political opponents.

Under the agreement (embedded below), Palin will not use any of the funds in the Trust, and is establishing a new defense fund (website here). Palin's statement on the settlement is on her Facebook page.

The key finding in the agreement is that Palin had no personal knowledge of any alleged violation:
Par. 25. Though the two reasons that the Trust violates the Ethics Acts are important, they are not so obvious as to impute knowledge to Governor Palin especially as her attorneys did advise her of the ethics problems. Therefore, the evidence supports Governor Palin's contention that any violation of the Ethics Act was not a knowing violation.
(added) The ethics law at issue was fairly convoluted, and the agreement repeatedly goes out of its way to point out that Palin sought and received legal advice that the Alaska Fund Trust complied with the law. In addition to the language above, the agreement recites the following on page 1:
The Trust was formed and administered following the specific advice of counsel solicited by Governor Palin and her aides. Because of the good faith reliance upon the advice of counsel who were specifically retained to insure compliance with the Ethics Act, the violations were not knowingly committed. Nevertheless, actions must be taken, if possible, to correct the deficiencies in the Trust pursuant to A.S. 39.52.330. Governor Palin has fully cooperated with the investigation, has refrained from receiving any benefit from the Trust pending the resolution of the this Complaint, and has agreed to assist in insuring that any warranted corrective action be taken."
Unfortunately for Palin, the Personnel Board took the position that advice of counsel was not a defense. Palin has agreed to return any funds to the extent feasible.

Ed Morrissey at HotAir has more background and explanation.

Palin Alaska Trust Settlement Agreement

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  1. It looks like according to her facebook post that the money given to the original fund will be returned but that you can then re-donate to the new fund?

    I might be wrong, but you're the lawyer so could you clarify that?

  2. Can the lawyers who gave her the bad advice be sued? Considering the amount of trouble she's gone through, she should at least get back the money she paid them.

  3. What a royal pain in the keister this has been for Sarah. I only hope this ruling ends it and she can more forward. She has more important "Democrat fish to fry" this summer.

  4. I don't know if a lawyer can be sued for bad advice, but I'm sure he can be fired.

    And I'm no lawyer.

  5. Let me see if I get this straight.

    In Alaska, anybody who wanted to could lay a charge of ethics violation against the Governor.

    The Governor could not pay for their defense by having the State pick up the tab for their lawyer.

    The Governor could not have others give to a fund that would pay to defend against these charges, no matter how frivilous, because that would be an "improper gift", and would then be subject to yet another charge.

    Lawyers could not donate their time to help the Governor defend against the charges, because that also would be an "improper gift"

    The only way a Governor could defend themselves would be with their own money. From a job that paid a quarter-mil a year, when lawyers fees could run many multiples of that.

    Is that about right? And if so, why in (censored) would anybody want to hold that job?

  6. Local newspaper today had an AP piece on this, wit the headline that the defense fund was "illegal".

    Journalists: formerly the Fourth Estate. Currently a Fifth Column. In the future a Sixth Sense ("I see dead careers").

  7. Lynne,

    Thus the Gov had to resign to avoid personal bankruptcy.