Alaskan files ethics complaint against Palin

Grievance says governor was wrong to collect per diem while staying at her Wasilla home

Posted: Tuesday, July 07, 2009

ANCHORAGE - A resident of Sarah Palin's hometown has filed an ethics complaint against her, just days after her surprise announcement that she will resign as Alaska governor.

Zane Henning alleges in the complaint filed Monday that Palin is violating state ethics law by collecting per diem when she stays in her Wasilla home instead of the Governor's Mansion in Juneau.

It's the 16th ethics complaint filed against Palin, who noted in her resignation speech last week that "frivolous" ethics complaints had set her back more than $500,000 in legal debt. She steps down July 26.

Most of the complaints, including another one by Henning, have been dismissed.

Henning says that with Palin's resignation, "now more than ever the state of Alaska along with its residents need to be reimbursed for the per diem charges."

The Washington Post reported in September that in Palin's first 19 months in office she had billed the state for 312 nights spent in her Wasilla home, while Alaska provides free lodging for her in Juneau. She collected $16,951 during that period.

Palin's staff said the expense claims were legal because Palin's official "duty station" was in Juneau, and state employees get daily per diem when away from their duty station.

"The governor is entitled to a per diem, and she claims it," Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow told the Post.

Henning's earlier ethics complaint was based on an allegation that she had used her position as governor for partisan political purposes when she conducted interviews with reporters in her Anchorage office in the days after the November general election.

Personnel Board investigator Michael Geraghty reviewed the ensuing news reports and concluded there was no indication Palin used her office for an improper personal or financial purpose.

Henning's earlier complaint, filed Nov. 13, was dismissed May 12. State Personnel Director Nicki Neal refused to specify how much the state spent investigating Henning's complaint.

Henning's new complaint alleges that Palin collected more than her statutorily authorized salary of $125,000 a year by inappropriately collecting per diem to which she was not legally entitled.

"Per diem is there for any added expenses incurred while in travel status, not when living in your own home," Henning's complaint said.

• Juneau Empire reporter Pat Forgey contributed to this report.

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