JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A legislative ethics panel said it found by "clear and convincing evidence" that an Alaska lawmaker violated ethics law by disclosing the existence of a complaint that was considered confidential.
At a public hearing Tuesday, Republican Rep. David Eastman of Wasilla denied the allegation.
A subcommittee of the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics deliberated at the close of Tuesday's hours-long hearing but adjourned without announcing its decision. A written decision, instead, was released Thursday.
In it, the subcommittee said the hearing marked the first time that Eastman had made a "definitive complete denial" of disclosing the existence of a confidential complaint to reporter Naomi Klouda. It was inconsistent with statements Eastman previously made to an investigator, the decision states.
No additional sanctions were recommended against Eastman, who in January was removed from his seat on the ethics committee by the state House after the ethics subcommittee found probable cause of an ethics violation and recommended that action.
In a statement Thursday, Eastman said the panel's conduct in his case "should shock the conscience of every single Alaskan."
"Having served on this committee myself, I can confirm that instead of enforcing the law, this committee has become a political weapon used for partisan attacks on legislators," he wrote, adding later: "Not only did I not violate confidentiality, I could not have done so even if I had wanted to, because I had no way of gaining access to confidential information at the time that the leak took place."
In January, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported that Eastman told one of its reporters, Naomi Klouda, during an April 2017 interview that a complaint had been filed against Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux and suggested she check with the ethics office. Klouda did.
Eastman's attorney, Tim Petumenos, disputed that characterization of events and said Klouda lacked notes to back it up.
The ethics decision excerpts an exchange between the investigator and Eastman in which the investigator asks if it was possible that Eastman could have said to call about an alleged complaint.
"I suppose it's possible, but I guess, yeah, I'm trying to figure out why I would have said something like that. I can't make any sense out of that," Eastman responded.
The ethics subcommittee said Klouda appeared to have no reason to give false information.
LeDoux has said that a complaint against her was dismissed because it was meritless.