In the wake of Governor Palin stepping down from her job, new allegations have surfaced today in Alaska charging Palin with additional violations of the Alaska Executive Ethics Act.
Zane Henning -- a conservative government watchdog from the governor's hometown of Wasilla and an oilfield worker on Alaska's North Slope -- asserts in a letter to Alaska Attorney General Daniel S. Sullivan that Palin has "been charging and pocketing per diem to live in her home and has used the process for a personal gain since being elected."
In a detailed press release accompanying the charges, Henning declared that:
Palin's use of the per diem is in direct conflict with Section 39.52.120. (a) of the Alaska Executive Ethics Act....More than a thousand state employees commute from the Mat-Su Valley daily and none of them get to pocket free money. Henning noted that "the State of Alaska provides housing in Juneau for the Governor."
If she chooses not to live there, Alaskans should not have to pay for it. I am requesting that you and the Personnel Board direct Governor Sarah Palin to reimburse the State of Alaska all per diem funds, plus interest, and a fine that are related to charges while staying in her Wasilla residence.
Henning further argued that Alaska Statute 39.20.010 sets an "annual salary for the governor of $125,000."
Sarah Palin has collected more than the amount established by law by cashing in her per diem checks. Alaska Statute 39.20.050 (Exclusive Compensation) states that the compensation fixed by law for the governor and lieutenant governor is in full for all services rendered by each of them in any official capacity or employment whatsoever during their respective terms of office. Per diem is therefore any added expenses incurred while in travel status, not when living in your own home.
According to Henning:
State travel regulations say that per diem can't be claimed when travel is less than 50 miles from a state employee's workplace. The IRS and state finance officer have already determined that the per diem is considered income. The governor's workplace in Anchorage is only a 45-mile commute from her Wasilla home.
In February, Palin was required to pay back income taxes on thousands of dollars in expense money she received while living at her home overlooking Lake Lucille in Wasilla. Little more than two weeks ago she was forced to pay back the State of Alaska more than $8,100.00 for nine trips taken by her children that she had improperly charged as being part of official state business.
Henning contends the per diem is another way for the Alaska governor to line her pockets at the state's expense:
As a Wasilla resident I know that thousands of valley residents commute into Anchorage for work every day. They don't receive checks from their employers for sleeping at home. Governor Palin does. And it's wrong, not to mention unethical, for her to even submit these per diem claims. To me, this is a roundabout way for Palin to give herself a raise. "The Governor is quitting her job," said Henning, "and now more than ever the State of Alaska, along with its residents, need to be reimbursed for the per diem charges, including interest and a fine...[I]t is up to private citizens, like myself, to hold our Governor accountable."
I remember this being an issue during the campaign, but don't think it had ever been pursued or followed up on like this before. Don't think she can lay the blame for this at the feet of the "Librul Media" either, since the watchdog in question is apparently a conservative. He makes some good points, particularly with regard to the many other State employees who don't get that per-diem.