February 26, 2009
Flein stated Governor Palin reached a voluntary agreement with the Personnel Board, through its Independent Counsel. The agreement provides that no wrongdoing or violation of law "has been found" and that no "inference of wrongdoing" should be inferred "by virtue of the execution of this agreement."
What this process did uncover is that the state of the law is uncertain, vague and in need of improvement stated Flein. Accordingly, the Governor and the Independent Counsel, Tim Petumenos, agreed that the issue of Protocol Travel should be sent to the Attorney General to prepare regulations further defining Protocol Travel.
Flein stated although not legally obligated to do so, the Governor and Independent Counsel agreed to a travel standard referred to as the "state interest test" that may become part of a regulation to be created. The Governor further agreed to have this test applied retroactively to her Protocol Travel, which was not legally required said Flein, nor could it be required, as laws cannot be constitutionally retroactively applied. Under this new standard, of the approximately 72 travel authorizations reviewed, only nine fell short according to the news release. The Governor has voluntarily agreed to repay the travel costs that did not meet the new test that is still to be implemented stated Flein.
Flein said that Governor Palin has shown, by her actions, that she adheres to the highest level of ethics, and in fact, has gone beyond what the law required, and she has agreed to meet legal standards that do not yet formally exist. Flein stated that very few public servants can make that claim.
In a prepared statement Gov. Palin said, "I am gratified that this settlement explicitly recognizes and establishes (under Point No. 5) that I broke no laws or ethics rules. The Personnel Board is acknowledging the lack of clarity in the formal guidance regarding travel, further indicating that there is no fault to be ascribed to me."
Palin stated, "It is troubling that this complaint was such an obvious political weapon, with an associate of a political adversary filing this and making it public - against state law - just before the election." She said, "Beyond objecting to the obvious gamesmanship that serves the public so terribly, I think it is important to prevent the ethics act from being used as a tool to ensure that only the wealthy can seek higher office in Alaska."
"But it is important to avoid such disputes in the future, if possible," said Palin. To that end, Palin said she has agreed to support clarifications in the travel rules, and to reimburse the state for certain trips that some day might not be considered an appropriate state expense, under the forthcoming revisions. "That is, although I am not required to do so, I will set a new standard on travel now by assuming the burden of these particular expenses," said Palin.
"This is a big state, and I am obligated to - and intend to - keep Alaskans informed and meet with them as much as I can, from Barrow to Marshall to Ketchikan," said Palin. "At the same time, I am blessed to have a large and loving family, and the discharge of my duties should not prevent me from spending time with them. I will do so in accordance with the upcoming rewrite of regulations concerning travel expenses, and despite those who would crimp me from fulfilling either my obligations to the state or my obligations to my family," she said.
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