Lawyer: Governor may remove university regent

Posted: Sunday, February 04, 2007

FAIRBANKS - Gov. Sarah Palin has the legal power to remove a member of the University of Alaska Board of Regents who was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly misusing government grants, according to a lawyer who advises lawmakers.

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Palin asked regent Jim Hayes to resign last week from the university board, but he denied the request. Hayes and his wife, Chris, have been indicted by a federal grand jury on 92 counts associated with their alleged misuse of government grant funds.

The Hayeses have been accused of misusing $450,000 of federal grants made to LOVE Social Services, of which Chris Hayes is executive director. They are scheduled to be arraigned in federal court on Feb. 9.

The governor has been handling the situation under the assumption that she did not have the legal authority to remove a regent and that only the Legislature could do so. University officials also stated the same opinion when asked about the issue last month.

But a legal opinion issued by a lawyer with the Legislative Affairs Agency on Jan. 31 at the request of Sen. Joe Thomas, D-Fairbanks, states that the governor does have the power to remove a regent simply by informing the regent of the decision and then appointing a replacement to be confirmed by the Legislature.

"The governor's appointing authority, including the authority to appoint to positions that require legislative confirmation, carries with it the correlative power to remove," states the opinion, written by legislative attorney Jean Mischel.

Thomas said he asked for the opinion when it became clear that Hayes was not going to resign.

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