Committee recommends sanction for Eastman over ethics violation
The House Subcommittee on Ethics is recommending censure of sanction for Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, after concluding he violated Alaska law by disclosing the existence of a complaint filed against a fellow legislator.
The committee, which includes members of the public, Eastman and House Majority Leader Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, recommended he be removed from the committee for the remainder of the current legislative session in a decision released Jan. 18.
Eastman told the Associated Press he intends to seek a formal hearing before the committee.
Tuck and the four members of the public on the committee found that Eastman violated the Legislative Ethics Act when he told this reporter on April 28, 2017, that an ethics complaint had been filed against Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage.
The act prohibits the disclosure of complaints that are under investigation or have been dismissed, and that details of proceedings are confidential until the committee reaches a conclusion whether probable cause exists that a violation occurred.
The Journal contacted Eastman while working on a story about legislators who’d formed political action committees, which included Eastman, LeDoux and Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer.
During the course of the interview, Eastman said that an ethics complaint had been filed against LeDoux and recommended this reporter check with the Legislative Ethics Office.
The reporter then called the Legislative Ethics Office and spoke with Administrator Jerry Anderson, who quizzed the reporter about where the information on this alleged filing came from.
He informed the Journal that he could not answer any questions about the alleged violation filed against LeDoux. The decision issued Jan. 18 by the Ethics committee stated Eastman “violated AS 24.60.17(c) and (l) by disclosing to a member of the public the existence of a complaint filed with the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics that was confidential under the specific provisions of AS 24.60.17(c) and (l).”
Anderson said members of the Ethics committee receive several hours of training per year on applicable laws.
This reporter and Journal Managing Editor Andrew Jensen met with Anderson at the Legislative Ethics Office in Anchorage on May 17, 2017, and provided formal testimony on the interview with Eastman and his disclosure of a complaint against LeDoux.
Dennis “Skip” Cook, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Legislative Ethics, filed a complaint in this matter and on Jan. 12 the subcommittee met “and determined there was probable cause to believe that a violation of the Ethics Law had occurred, and that Rep. David Eastman committed such a violation.”
As for whether or not the ethics complaint was dismissed against LeDoux, Anderson said, “that if such an ethics investigation is underway, it remains confidential from the public. If it was concluded and dismissed, that would remain confidential.”
The press release issued Jan. 18 does not mention LeDoux, who confirmed to the Associated Press a complaint was filed and dismissed.
Eastman has three options, according to Anderson.
He can resign from the Legislative Ethics Committee; he can ask for a confidential meeting with the committee to seek reasons for the decision; or “he can go ahead and ask for a hearing, a formal public hearing where he can request to see what is behind the investigation, to include testimony and interviews available,” Anderson said.
Eastman could also be removed from the Ethics committee by a vote of the House Committee on Committees. That group is made up of Chair and House Speaker Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham; Rep. Charisse Millet, R-Anchorage; LeDoux; Seaton; Tuck; Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome.
House Majority Spokesman Mike Mason said no Committee on Committees hearing is yet scheduled to take up the matter. A message left for Eastman had not been returned at the time of publication.
Eastman was censured by the House in a 25-14 vote on May 11, 2017, after he made public statements alleging that rural Alaska women get pregnant on purpose in order to receive free travel to Anchorage to get abortions.
Naomi Klouda can be reached at email@example.com.