Senate minority asks Cowdery to step down

Therriault says lawmaker who has been implicated in VECO scandal should resign

Posted: Monday, December 31, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Senate Minority Leader Gene Therriault sent a letter to Anchorage Sen. John Cowdery asking him to resign because he has been implicated in the VECO bribery scandal.

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Therriault said the letter was hand-delivered to Cowdery more than a week ago. Copies also were sent to state Senate President Lyda Green and Senate Majority Leader Gary Stevens, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

"Now that we are approaching the regular session, and with it seeming the majority does not intend to do anything, we felt it was appropriate to say something," Therriault, a Republican from North Pole, said Saturday.

Cowdery is one of six state legislators whose offices were searched by the FBI in August 2006.

Therriault said all five members of the Senate minority caucus signed the letter. All are Republicans.

Green, a Wasilla Republican, said Cowdery has not been charged with any crime and she feels "it is probably very premature" for lawmakers to call for his resignation.

Green said she spoke briefly to Cowdery about the letter from the Senate minority.

"He was very hurt, as was his wife," Green said.

Green said, at this point at least, she expects Cowdery to serve in the coming legislative session and to continue in the position of Senate rules chairman. The 2008 session begins on Jan. 15.

Cowdery did not immediately return a call for comment Saturday. He has not responded to recent requests by the Daily News for an interview.

Cowdery has previously denied any wrongdoing. However, his name has come up in federal corruption trials.

Former VECO Corp. vice president Rick Smith testified in the recent trials of two former state legislators that he bribed Cowdery. Smith, who has been convicted and is cooperating with federal prosecutors, did not give details.

Former VECO chief Bill Allen, who has also been convicted of giving bribes and is cooperating with federal prosecutors, has testified Cowdery was a part of his inner circle.

Cowdery stayed away from the recent special session on oil taxes, saying he did not want to be a distraction. The Republican represents a district that includes a stretch of the Lower Hillside and South Anchorage.

Therriault said the Senate majority should not ignore the sworn trial testimony about Cowdery.

"They can't just adopt a bunker mentality and think the Alaska public is going to let it blow over. Because I don't think they are," he said.

Republican Gov. Sarah Palin and the Senate minority have both said the majority should review whether Cowdery stays as the rules chairman.

Green said she thinks the bigger issue at the moment is Cowdery's health. Cowdery, 77, has been repeatedly hospitalized in recent months, including with pneumonia and an infection in his leg. He has used a walker at times.

Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com



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