The chairman of the Alaska Republican Party acknowledged violating ethics law when he held a state job but said Wednesday he has no plans to step down from the unpaid party position.
Randy Ruedrich reached a settlement Tuesday with the state Department of Law and immediately paid a $12,000 fine, believed to be the largest civil penalty ever imposed in a state ethics case.
Ruedrich, formerly a member of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, acknowledged sending a confidential memo to an attorney and lobbyist for a company developing methane gas.
He admitted to engaging in partisan political activity at his state office, on occasion using his personal cellular phone to do so. He also admitted conducting party business during regular working hours after promising not to do so.
Ruedrich said it was cheaper to settle the latter two charges than fight them.
"Very simply, when you're looking at a charge of this nature and taking it to the next step, the appeal process, is a hugely expensive proposition as well as time consuming," Ruedrich said. "I decided to settle rather than clarify some of these remaining issues."
Chief Assistant Attorney General Barbara Ritchie said her office settled with Ruedrich after he admitted his conduct violated ethics law and he agreed to pay a substantial civil penalty.
Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski called the settlement reasonable.
"He has paid a large fine, pleaded guilty to three counts, lost his job and has agreed not to take any other state job while serving the party," Murkowski said. "In my view, this is a reasonable outcome which should satisfy those who have may have been concerned that the ethics law would not be justly applied. It has been."
Murkowski appointed Ruedrich to the $118,000 per year state job in the early days of his administration in 2003. The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is a quasi-judicial regulatory agency that oversees underground operations of the state's oil industry.
Former commission Chairwoman Sarah Palin, who also was appointed by Murkowski, said there was evidence of Ruedrich's conflict of interest on the job "almost from day one."
Ruedrich said he admitted nothing new Tuesday.
"Clearly, I had admitted I sent that one memo, which was definitely carelessness on my part. I said that from the very beginning," he said.
"I've worked with a lot of confidential material in my life," Ruedrich said. "It's as upsetting to me as it was to anybody else."