ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Outgoing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is facing yet another ethics complaint – the 18th against her and the very thing that helped to prompt her resignation.
The latest complaint alleges she abused her office by accepting a salary and using state staff while campaigning outside Alaska for the vice presidency. It’s the third complaint filed against the Republican since she announced July 3 that she was stepping down.
In her resignation speech, Palin said the array of ethics complaints was taking a personal toll and crippling her ability to govern. She officially leaves office July 26 and will be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell.
In her complaint, Andree McLeod said that two days before Palin was named John McCain’s running mate, she signed travel documents that stated “conclusion of state business.” A similar document soon after the election stated “return to duty status.”
McLeod said Palin’s signature on the documents demonstrated a “willingness to forgo her duties as governor” to travel on the national campaign. She added that she filed the complaint now only because she was waiting for a final document from the state in response to a public records request.
McLeod said that given that temporary absence, Palin should have turned over the governor’s responsibilities to Parnell as required by the state constitution.
“The reason this is so serious is because the transfer of power should have taken place but did not,” McLeod said Tuesday.
Palin’s attorney, Thomas Van Flein, called the filing “another meritless complaint.” He said Palin continued working regularly as governor even when she left the state on the national campaign.
Van Flein said the Alaska Personnel Board already dismissed a similar complaint by McLeod that alleged a staffer who traveled with the governor worked on state time to benefit Palin’s interests during and after her national run. The McCain campaign paid for the governor’s travel and per diem costs to avoid any ethics implications, according to Van Flein.
“Contrary to the complaint, it is not an ethics violation to save the state money and to avoid overlap between campaign costs and state costs,” Van Flein said in a prepared statement. “Rather, this was the more ethical and better approach, using campaign money even when state business was being accomplished remotely.”
Jack Coghill, a Republican and an author of the Alaska constitution, said Palin should have formally put someone in charge.
“Anytime she leaves the state, according to our constitution, she has to relinquish her power as governor to her successor,” he said.
Van Flein disagreed, saying nothing in the constitution dictates that the governor must, or should, turn over authority to the lieutenant governor.
“That decision is 100 percent discretionary to the governor,” he told The Associated Press. “That also is a policy issue, not an ethics issue.”
Palin said at the time of her resignation that her administration had become hamstrung by frivolous ethics complaints that also put her more than $500,000 in legal debt and set the state back about $2 million dealing with them.
“And what about the people who offer up these silly accusations?” she asked. “It doesn’t cost them a dime so they’re not going to stop draining public resources – spending other peoples’ money in their game.”
On Tuesday, Palin renewed her criticism of the complaints by indirectly targeting McLeod, whom Palin has said once sought an appointment from her.
“Are these constant, wasteful, thumped-up ethics charges result of not caving when the filer begged for job?” Palin said on the social networking Web site Twitter. “More frivolous chargs filed today.”
The complaint is the fifth by McLeod. Three of the cases have been dismissed and another remains active.