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State: No grounds for recall of Alaska GOP leader
Anchorage Daily News


September 09, 2005

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The Division of Elections has refused to certify the recall petition of Sen. Ben Stevens, dealing opponents of the powerful state legislator a second blow in less than a month.

State Elections Director Laura Glaiser ruled Wednesday that recall advocates failed to allege sufficient grounds in their petition to force Stevens, the Alaska Senate president, to face his district's voters in a special election.

Relying on her own judgment and a legal opinion from the state Department of Law, Glaiser rejected the assertion that Stevens' outside consulting income from the oil-field service company Veco was corrupting.

While Glaiser said she "respects the right of the people to petition the government," state law demands that a recall petition allege facts that demonstrate an office holder's incompetence, neglect, lack of fitness or corruption. She said the Stevens petition failed to do so.

Ray Metcalfe, leader of the Republican Moderate Party and the main figure behind the recall, said he planned to appeal Glaiser's decision in court.

"What did he do for that $50,000 a year?" Metcalfe asked about the consulting fees Veco paid to Stevens, as cited in the petition. "When you are serving two masters with conflicted interests, in common law that is considered corrupt and has been for hundreds of years."

Metcalfe said Stevens did Veco's bidding by backing efforts to spend Permanent Fund earnings.

The legal opinion, by assistant attorney general Michael Barnhill, said the petitioners failed to state how Stevens' conduct showed him unfit. Given the reality of a part-time state Legislature, "the mere acceptance of outside employment, and presumably the contracting of 'advice and loyalty' that goes along (with) any employment, is not improper," the opinion said.

A spokesman for Stevens, Jeff Turner, said Stevens would not comment Wednesday. Stevens, a Republican and the youngest son of Sen. Ted Stevens, represents the Sand Lake and Bayshore/Klatt areas of South Anchorage. Under the normal four-year cycle, he would next face election in 2006.

Two weeks ago, the Alaska Public Offices Commission staff rejected a complaint filed by Metcalfe that accused Stevens of failing to properly document some $1.3 million in outside income since taking office in 2001. Metcalfe said Stevens should disclose what he did for the money, but the APOC staff said his description of the work as "consulting" or "business services" satisfied the requirements of the law.

Metcalfe said he plans to appeal that decision to the full commission.

The recall garnered 1,232 signatures from the district in the first round of petitioning.

Glaiser, a Republican, said partisan politics didn't influence her decision. She said she chose not to seek a legal opinion from a special outside counsel because she hadn't heard allegations that she or the state's Republican administration had predetermined the outcome of the legal review.


Distributed by Scripps-McClatchy Western Service,

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