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Long IslandPolitics

Sarah Palin reimburses Alaska $8K for 9 family trips

Gov. Sarah Palin has paid more than $8,100 to reimburse Alaska for the costs associated with nine trips taken with her children.

Palin's attorney, Thomas Van Flein, says the governor paid $8,143.62 to the state on June 19 forthe nine trips, some with more than one of her five children, taken between January 2007 andFebruary of this year. The payment was due Tuesday.

An ethics complaint had alleged Palin abused her power by charging the state when herchildren traveled with her. The Alaska Personnel Board found no wrongdoing, but Palin agreedto reimburse the state for trips found to be of questionable state interest.

Van Flein and state administrative director Linda Perez sent The Associated Press copies of thecheck and other documents of the transaction.

The board's investigator, Timothy Petumenos, said in his report that state rules give littleguidance to determine ethical standards for travel by the governor's family. But he interpretedthe law to require that the state pay only if the first family serves an important state interest. Van Flein noted that Palin had followed historical practices on first family travel and that hertravel requests were processed by the same administrators who processed requests forpredecessors, Frank Murkowski and Tony Knowles.

"No one challenged Gov. Murkowski's or Governor Knowles' travel practices," Van Flein said inan e-mail. "The rules were, and are, being changed in midstream for Governor Palin. However, asnoted in the agreement at the time 'the Governor wants to exceed minimum legal standards."'

Anchorage resident Frank Gwartney, a Democrat, filed the complaint in late October. It closelyfollowed a report by The Associated Press that Palin charged the state more than $21,000 for herthree daughters' commercial flights, including events where they weren't invited, and laterordered their expense forms amended to specify official state business.

Palin was the Republican vice presidential candidate when the complaint was filed and afterthe February settlement she called the grievance "an obvious political weapon." As part of thesettlement, the Alaska Department of Law was asked to develop specific rules clarifying whenthe state should pay for a governor's family travel. That effort is under way, with the goal to havea final draft by the end of the year, according to Judy Bockmon, an assistant attorney general.

Also on Tuesday, the governor's office announced the 15th dismissal of an ethics complaintagainst Palin or one of her staff.

It alleged Kris Perry -- director of the governor's Anchorage office -- worked on state time tobenefit Palin's interests during and after her vice presidential run.

The governor's office said the complaint was filed even after Perry obtained an opinion fromPerez, her ethics supervisor.

"It is outrageous to file an ethics complaint against a state employee who sought and obtainedethics guidance in advance," Mike Nizich, Palin's chief of staff, said in a statement. "This is notabout ethics. This is not about holding the governor or state employees accountable. This is pureharassment."


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