Rep. Hughes fires ex-Gatto aide after ethics ruling

PALMER — Rep. Shelley Hughes (R-Palmer) fired her chief of staff Friday on the heels of a ruling from the state’s Legislative Ethics Committee.


Karen Sawyer had been the chief of staff for Hughes’ predecessor, the late Carl Gatto.

“Karen was contrite in our meeting this morning, and acknowledged her lapse in judgment,” Hughes said in a press release. “It is sad, personally, because she was such a beloved person in our district — who for the most part worked diligently for Palmer and the Mat-Su Valley all these years.”

The rulings, also announced in a Friday press release, were that Sawyer — while serving as chief of staff for Gatto — allowed David Heckert, Alaska Director for an organization called Stop Islamization of America, to work out of Gatto’s office in 2011.

Heckert used state offices, state equipment and legislative staff in his work and Gatto pushed for the passage of House Bill 88, a bill to ban the implementation of foreign laws in Alaska. Though broadly constructed, most everybody at the time assumed it was an attempt, like had been made in other states, to ban Islamic or Sharia law.

According to the press release, Heckert and his organization, “supported a bill Representative Gatto had introduced, House Bill 88, but the (legislative ethics) subcommittee determined that the organization’s main mission appeared to be promoting their organization and its mission with the bill as a validation point.”


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