Ethics panel upholds decision against Eastman
A legislative ethics panel says 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, Rep. David Eastman denied that he had done this.
The ethics panel says that was the first definitive denial offered by Eastman and was inconsistent with statements he previously made to an investigator.
The Alaska Journal of Commerce in January reported that Eastman told one of its reporters in April 2017 that a complaint had been filed against Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux and suggested the reporter check with the ethics office.
The House in January removed Eastman from his seat on the ethics committee after he was accused of the breach.
No additional sanctions were recommended.
Eastman requested the hearing after a subcommittee of the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics in January said it found probable cause that Eastman violated ethics law by disclosing the existence of the complaint.
The subcommittee recommended that Eastman lose his seat on the ethics committee and the state House removed him in January, which Eastman has argued was premature.
The hearing spanned most of the day. About an hour after deliberations began, a panel member said the group had finished its work in executive session. But no decision was announced before the panel adjourned.
Kevin Fitzgerald, an attorney for the ethics committee, said there was overwhelming evidence that Eastman disclosed the existence of the complaint and suggested he had motive to do so.
He said Eastman shared with fellow House members in April 2017 a letter in which he indicated that a lawmaker had threatened to withhold donations from a political action committee to another's campaign because of disagreements over an amendment.
Eastman said what he wrote was not based on a direct observation but on what one member involved in that discussion told him.
He said he didn't consider what occurred to be an ethical violation but instead a form of harassment.
The incident was written about on a conservative blog and days later, a complaint was filed.
The Alaska Journal of Commerce in January reported that Eastman told one of its reporters during an interview in April 2017 that a complaint had been filed against Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux and suggested the reporter check with the ethics office, which she did.
Eastman's attorney, Tim Petumenos, disputed that characterization of events and said the reporter, Naomi Klouda, lacked notes to back that up.
He questioned why Eastman, as an ethics committee member, would do that.
"Why didn't he just put his head in the noose? Because what's the ethics committee going to say? 'What? Rep. Eastman disclosed an ethics complaint to you and you're sure? Why, that's it for him!' And that's exactly what happened. Who would do that?" he said.
Klouda did not attend Tuesday's hearing in Anchorage because of medical issues. An attorney who has represented Klouda attended, and a deposition she gave was read for the panel.
Fitzgerald said Klouda has been consistent in her statements about what Eastman told her.
LeDoux has said that a complaint against her was dismissed because it was meritless but declined further comment.
The man who filed the complaint said he knows Eastman from various gatherings but that prior to filing the complaint, he doesn't think he spoke to him and said the two never spent time together.
Eastman, who has taken issue with the coverage of abortion through Medicaid, was previously censured by the House in 2017 over comments he made suggesting there are women in Alaska who try to get pregnant to get a "free trip to the city" for abortions. Eastman apologized for the comments.