ANCHORAGE - The state attorney general's office said Wednesday it has reason to believe Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich violated the state Ethics Act.
In a letter to Ruedrich's attorney, the Alaska Department of Law said it had probable cause to believe Ruedrich performed Republican party work on the job as an appointed state oil and gas commissioner.
Ruedrich resigned in November from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission - an $118,000 per-year post to which he was appointed in February 2003 by Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski. In April, he issued a 12-page letter to assistant attorney general Paul Lyle, rebutting nearly every allegation.
"We reviewed his answer to the complaint very carefully and continued with the investigation and found there was probable cause to believe he knowingly violated the Ethics Act," said Barbara Ritchie, a chief assistant attorney general who is overseeing the case.
Eric Sanders, Ruedrich's attorney, could not be reached by The Associated Press Wednesday and Ruedrich said he wasn't prepared to comment on the 10-page letter written Monday.
"I just received it this afternoon and will respond to it next week," Ruedrich said. "I haven't had a chance to look at it at all."
In the letter, Lyle cited four apparent violations by Ruedrich, who took over as party chairman, an unpaid position, in June 2000.
Allegations include using state facilities, equipment and resources for partisan political activity, as well as engaging in outside volunteer work for the Republican party "in a manner that was inconsistent" with his state job.
Lyle also wrote that there was probable cause to believe Ruedrich knowingly forwarded a confidential document to an attorney for Evergreen Resources.
Ruedrich has acknowledged he erred when he sent an attorney general's opinion to lawyer Kyle Parker, who represented Evergreen on matters pertaining to methane gas development in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. But Ruedrich said he didn't realize until after he sent the memo that it had been marked confidential.
Lyle also listed an instance where Ruedrich sent e-mail about a Mat-Su newspaper's online poll on coal bed methane to employees of the oil and gas commission. The attorney general's office rejected Ruedrich's contention that he believed workers were well-qualified to voice an opinion and that he didn't know if they even participated in the poll.
"Our complaint does not question the qualifications of AOGCC employees to voice an opinion on coal bed methane," Lyle wrote. "It questions Mr. Ruedrich's decision to suggest that his subordinates vote the same way he, in his capacity as the chairman of the Republican Party of Alaska, urged members of his party to vote."
The letter concludes by saying the state will not dismiss the charges and has asked Sanders and Ruedrich to decide by May 17 whether they would like to discuss a resolution.
Each violation carries a maximum $5,000 penalty.
"We are willing to meet to discuss this case with you and your client to see whether we may be able to enter into a stipulation that addresses the violations and appropriate civil penalties," Lyle wrote. "If that is not possible, we will proceed to file an accusation against Mr. Ruedrich."
That means bringing the allegations to the state personnel board, Ritchie said.
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