Ethics board passes on ex-AG Renkes

Agreement opens files collected by investigator to public view

Posted: Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Alaska Personnel Board on Tuesday dismissed an ethics complaint against former attorney general Gregg Renkes after the parties involved reached a settlement.

Under the settlement, the allegations against Renkes will be dropped and the files collected by an outside investigator hired by Gov. Frank Murkowski are to be made public.

Also, the independent counsel hired by the personnel board will be able to complete his analysis of whether the amount of KFx Inc. stock Renkes owned was significant enough to be considered a conflict of interest.

But finding Renkes' stock holdings significant will not be enough to conclude he violated the state's ethics laws, according to the settlement agreement released by the personnel board.

"The board will not entertain any other or further complaints against Renkes based upon any (of) the facts or circumstances giving rise to the complaint," the settlement read.

Renkes owned more than $100,000 in KFx stock when his holdings in the company were revealed last October. KFx was included in an agreement between Alaska and Taiwan to market Cook Inlet coal for export. It was a deal that Renkes played a major role in shaping.

The personnel board also will be able to give an opinion on whether Murkowski followed the proper procedure for investigating alleged ethics violations by one of his cabinet members.

The agreement released by the personnel board does not specify a timeline for delivering its opinions.

The agreement was signed by Renkes, board chairwoman Debra English and independent counsel Thomas Daniel.

Renkes, who resigned in February, did not immediately return a call to his cell phone on Monday. Murkowski spokeswoman Becky Hultberg declined to comment on the board looking into the procedure Murkowski followed.

For all other matters, Hultberg said, "This is between Gregg Renkes and the personnel board."

Rep. Eric Croft, D-Anchorage, and former Wasilla mayor Sarah Palin had filed the complaint against Renkes. Croft said Monday the agreement satisfies the three main objectives he and Palin had in submitting the complaint.

"This achieves the goals we had on openness, the right process and the right rules," Croft said.

Murkowski had hired former U.S. Attorney Robert Bundy to investigate allegations against Renkes. In January, Bundy released his findings that Renkes did not own enough KFx stock to be considered legally significant to constitute an ethics breach.

Bundy did conclude that Renkes should have sought an outside opinion before becoming involved in the Alaska-Taiwan deal, and Murkowski sent Renkes a letter of reprimand.

Renkes resigned a little more than two weeks later, saying he wanted to remove his family from the politics of personal destruction.

Bundy recommended in his report that the state establish clear guidelines on how much interest a state employee can have in a company doing business with Alaska.

The personnel board also plans to issue an opinion on Bundy's recommendation, and may make recommendations of its own, according to the settlement.

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