Ethics committee seeks to remove Eastman
The state Legislature’s ethics body is seeking to remove a Mat-Su lawmaker from its own ranks, after finding that he violated its policies by telling someone about a confidential ethics complaint last year.
A Thursday finding of probable cause against Rep. David Eastman in the May incident was issued by the House subcommittee of the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics. Eastman, a Wasilla Republican in the state House minority, is currently a member of the larger committee but wasn't part of the group which met Friday to review the claim against him.
“Eastman violated the Legislative Ethics Act 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 specific provisions of [state ethics law],” committee staff wrote.
The finding called for Eastman to be censured, in the form of removal from the committee.
At the time of the alleged disclosure, Eastman was in the news as Alaska Native groups and the House majority blasted him over a claim that women in rural Alaska get pregnant in order to “get a free trip” to Anchorage, or to Seattle to have an abortion. Eastman subsequently issued a statement apologizing for his remarks, but refused to do so on-air during a KTVA interview.
Jerry Anderson, the ethics committee’s administrator, declined to say what complaint Eastman had divulged the existence of or discuss its status. All complaints brought before the committee, including the one against Eastman, are private until probable cause is found to act upon them.
“The complaint process is confidential,” Anderson said.
Eastman now has 20 days, Anderson said, to choose one of three options: agree with and accept the committee’s findings, ask that they be explained to him in a confidential hearing, or demand a public hearing about the matter.
Eastman had no comment Thursday on the decision, according to House minority spokeswoman Mallory Walser.
The committee also dismissed a separate ethics complaint against Rep. Dan Saddler, stemming from his February mention of an event sponsored by a business on the House floor and in a message sent to legislative email addresses.
In its decision, committee members urged Saddler and his staff to review policies governing the proper use of state resources but noted that they had cooperated with an investigation of the incident.
Saddler said in a statement that he was glad the complaint against him was dismissed. He had introduced a constituent on the House floor in hopes of promoting an event encouraging women to fish, but didn't realize fishing gear was being sold at the event.
"I take responsibility for allowing even the appearance of impropriety," Saddler said. "I've taken steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and appreciate the committee’s decision to dismiss the complaint."
Emily Carlson contributed information to this story.
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