Ethics panel looks at how other states collect fines

  • By Molly Dischner
  • Wednesday, January 21, 2015 11:00pm
  • News

JUNEAU — A legislative committee that can fine Alaska lawmakers for ethics violations now wants a way to collect, but members couldn’t agree on how to do that during a meeting Wednesday in Juneau.

The Select Committee on Legislative Ethics has no course of action if a lawmaker decides not to pay a fine. That’s what the committee faces with a former state representative, Alan Dick, who was fined about $18,000 in 2013 for five ethics violations.

Dick’s violations included using state resources for his personal benefit in 2012, performing campaign activities out of his legislative office and having an aide prepare materials for a debate on government time. It also found violations related to Dick’s 2012 legislative travel.

Dick, who couldn’t immediately be reached by The Associated Press for comment Wednesday, had paid about $5,000 of the fine as of the board’s October meeting, committee records show.

Joyce Anderson, the committee’s former executive director, said no payments have been made since then.

After hearing several options including asking the attorney general to file a complaint, amending state law, or asking the Legislative Council for help filing a complaint in court, the panel decided to ask other states for more information on how they collect unpaid fines.

Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, said he was concerned that if the committee tried to collect the fines in court, it might open the violations for further consideration.

“If you sue someone, you could lose,” Josephson said, suggesting that the committee instead consider amending state law to enable the committee to collect.

Sen. Gary Steven, R-Kodiak, questioned the need for a collections process.

“Mr. Chairman, I was very surprised at seeing this document,” he said. “As the chairman of leg council, I don’t really see that it’s our job to be collecting fines or be suing legislators. That’s simply not within our purview.”

The committee also recommended introduction of a bill changing the ethics requirements for the legislature’s contractors and consultants. The bill would align the requirements for contractors with those for legislative volunteers and interns.

TJ Presley, an aide to Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, presented the bill to the committee and said that subjecting contractors to the same disclosure requirements as legislators is “onerous” and not currently enforced. Gardner introduced the bill Wednesday.

If enforced, the committee would have to deal with disclosures from far more people than it currently does, said outgoing committee chair Gary Turner, of Soldotna.

Committee member Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, noted that the recommendation to introduce the bill was not the same as the committee endorsing the bill.

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