Miller says he was disciplined for computer misuse

Posted: Tuesday, October 19, 2010

JUNEAU - U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller of Alaska on Monday acknowledged he was disciplined for misuse of government computers while working as an attorney for the Fairbanks North Star Borough in 2008.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

But Miller said the undisclosed discipline had nothing to do with why he left the job a year later, and certainly has nothing to do with the issues in the Senate race.

"And I think that's the critical thing, is to evaluate what is happening with the debate, what's happening with the dialogue," he told CNN, according to a transcript released before the interview aired. "Is this a discussion that is designed to inform voters, or is it a discussion that is designed to deceive voters?"

Miller said the incident occurred during his "lunch hour." He said he was never threatened with being fired but acknowledged he was disciplined for it.

Miller released a brief statement, confirming his statements to CNN and reiterating that "the incident had nothing to do with my departure from the Fairbanks North Star Borough nearly a year and a half later." He was traveling Monday afternoon and was not immediately available for an interview.

Last week, Miller told reporters in Alaska that he'd no longer answer questions about his past and background following what he alleged was a leak of his personnel file from his work with the borough. He offered no proof.

Former borough mayor Jim Whitaker then went public, saying he felt compelled to speak up if Miller himself wouldn't. He said Miller nearly lost his job with the borough for using government computers in a failed effort to overthrow the state GOP chairman in 2008.

Whitaker told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner it was his understanding that Miller had used borough computers to engage in "proxy voting," a claim challenged by GOP chair Randy Ruedrich, who said that process didn't exist at the state convention.

Whitaker said the term came up in a meeting with borough officials who'd briefed him on the matter. He said he'd been careful "not to speculate and not to overstate."

At times heavily redacted documents released before the primary by both the borough and campaign shed little light on his tenure.

Miller resigned from the borough in September 2009, citing what he considered "inappropriate actions" taken in relation to his work. In particular, he said he was asked to write a memo in a case for which he had previously raised questions about a potential conflict of interest. Miller also said a preapproved leave had been canceled.

Several media organizations have sued for access to the personnel file.

Miller hadn't responded to the allegations until now; his campaign instead had been directing reporters to the comments he made in last week's news conference, stressing his desire to focus on the issues.

Miller is locked in a three-person race, facing U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, whom he upset in the GOP primary and who is now running as a write-in candidate, and Democrat Scott McAdams.

Miller has a limited record; he's made his career in law, primarily as an attorney, and is making his first statewide run for office after a failed run for the state Legislature in 2004.

Asked whether he believed it was fair for his history as a government attorney - and anything he did while on the taxpayers' dime - to be scrutinized, he said the incident with the borough happened during his lunch break, "on my time off."

"So, frankly, there is not a direct correlation to that," Miller told CNN, though he added that decisions he made as an attorney or judge were "absolutely fair game" during his campaign.

A self-described constitutional conservative and a tea party favorite, Miller believes the federal government is on the brink of bankruptcy and thinks spending must be reined in. He favors stronger states' rights, and giving Alaska greater control over its own resources so it can be weaned of its dependency on the government and placed in charge of its own destiny.

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