Judge rules in favor of Stevens in ethics case

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2008

ANCHORAGE - Former state Senate president Ben Stevens, who has been embroiled in political scandal over the past year, has won a small victory in a dispute with the state's legislative watchdog over financial disclosure laws.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission last year found that Stevens failed to report payments from his service on the board of directors of Semco Energy, parent company of Alaska's largest utility.

The commission recommended that Stevens pay a fine of $630 for failing to disclose more than $70,000 in deferred compensation from Semco.

Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner ruled against the commission on Friday, saying the laws that would have compelled Stevens to report the income were not in place at the time.

The ruling hinged on Rindner's decision that Stevens did not have to report any deferred payments for 2005, two years before a law requiring such disclosures went into effect.

"Stevens cannot be punished for failing to disclose information that the Legislature should have required him to disclose if, in fact, the Legislature did not mandate such disclosure," Rindner wrote. "It was error to assess a civil penalty against him."

Stevens did not run for re-election in 2006.

Semco is the parent company of Enstar Natural Gas Co., Alaska's largest utility.

APOC Director Brooke Miles said on Monday she had not finished reading the decision and could not comment. She referred calls to the Department of Law, which didn't immediately respond.

Calls to Stevens' lawyer, John Wolfe, were not immediately returned.

The complaint against Stevens, R-Anchorage, was brought by the Republican Moderate Party. The party claimed Stevens failed to report payments worth $74,000 received from Semco Energy three years ago.

A separate lawsuit over income Stevens received from a consulting firm in which he held an interest has yet to be decided, Miles said.

The company, Advance North, was established by Stevens and Trevor McCabe, a former legislative director for U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, Ben Stevens' father. McCabe now solely owns the company.

Stevens is one of six Alaska lawmakers who had their offices raided by the FBI in 2006 in an ongoing federal probe into corruption in the state Legislature. Two lawmakers have been convicted for ties to VECO Corp., a former oil field services company.

Two former VECO executives have testified in those trials that they bribed Stevens, but he has not been charged. Stevens, through his lawyer, has denied any wrongdoing.

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