The process already was under way to replace University of Alaska Regent Jim Hayes by the time he announced his resignation, a spokeswoman for Gov. Sarah Palin said Friday.
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The embattled regent, who was indicted in January on federal charges of fraud, resigned from the board Friday morning.
Palin had called for Hayes' resignation several times this winter. That put the governor ahead of schedule toward appointing his replacement, said spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton.
"We had started preparing in the event he had resigned at that point in time," Stapleton said. "And because she has already filled a couple seats (on the Board of Regents) as well, she had some names."
Stapleton said the governor hoped to have an appointee ready for confirmation by the Legislature this session, which ends May 16.
Hayes sent a resignation letter to the governor, and his decision was announced on the floors of the Alaska House and Senate before the university had received word.
Regents Chairwoman Mary K. Hughes of Anchorage thanked Hayes for his service to the university.
"I certainly understand his reasons for resigning, to take care of his wife and devote the necessary time and energy preparing his defense," Hughes said. She said she looked forward to working with his replacement.
"We have much to do, and need the full strength of an active, engaged board to get it done," she said.
Until Friday, Hayes had said he planned to serve until 2011, when his term expires. However, he has not attended board meetings this year, except for a brief telephone call into the most recent meeting in Homer.
Hayes did not return messages left by The Associated Press.
"My decision to resign has not come easily," Hayes said in his resignation letter.
"I have found that my need to care for my wife and to prepare my defense of the charges against me do not permit me to devote as much time to my duties as is necessary for me to continue to fulfill my responsibilities as a regent," the letter to Palin said.
"I have great respect for the university and its vital mission of educating Alaska's youth. I do not wish to be a distraction to that effort or to the work of other regents," it said.
Palin accepted his resignation, effective immediately.
"I am pleased that Mr. Hayes took this course of action and agree with his decision to not further distract from the university and its mission," Palin said.
"I feel as though a cloud over the university has been lifted and the regents can now focus on the university's issues and move forward."
Lawmakers also expressed relief at Hayes' decision.
"I thought he should have done it quite some time ago but I'm very pleased he did it," Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Fairbanks, said after the House floor announcement.
Hayes, a former Fairbanks mayor, was indicted on charges that he misused $450,000 in federal funds associated with LOVE Social Services Center Inc., a Fairbanks nonprofit run by his wife, Chris. Jim Hayes served on the center's board of directors.
They were accused of using the money to pay for construction of a church where he is the pastor.
Palin first asked Hayes to resign in January, but he had refused that call. She lacks the legal authority to remove a regent.
A measure that could have led to an impeachment trial of Hayes received its first hearing Wednesday in a state Senate committee. The sponsor, Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, said he was pleased with Hayes' resignation.
"I think he's got more pressing business to take care of than fighting with the Legislature or the governor about a seat on the Board of Regents," Wagoner said.
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