Something has been bugging me about Sarah Palin giving part of her children's travel expenses back to the state. It bugged me since I wrote the previous post about a pretend slap on the wrist.
ADN updated their report to include the following:
"Nothing in this agreement constitutes an admission of wrongdoing, and none has been found," the document said.
Palin's lawyer, Thoman Van Flein, took it a step further.
"The governor has been exonerated of all wrongdoing in this ethics act complaint. There is no finding of wrongdoing and there is no ethics violation," Van Flein said in a news conference.
As Petumenos described it, the governor agreed not to contest certain charges. He agreed not to file a formal accusation or take the case to a hearing.
Let's put this whole business in a clearer context, starting with a quote from Sarah Palin:
"I'm the mayor, I can do whatever I want until the courts tell me I can't." Now she's the Governor. She charges $60 per diem to make a phone call from her own home.
- Sarah Palin filed expenses claims that included the cost of her children's travel to several events, when the children were clearly not attending them on state business.
- Charges were challenged by reporters.
- The governor had forms amended, changing the language to make it clear that the children were invited to events as part of First Family.
- Ethics complaint filed.
- Complaint investigated by the Personnel Board. All members of the board are appointed by the governor.
- The same person who "investigated" Troopergate on behalf of the Personnel Board is asked to look into the claims.
- They come to an arrangement where she pays "x" amount back and no further questions will be asked and no charges brought against the Governor.
If the reporters had not asked some questions, if the ethics complaint had not been filed, she wouldn't have to reimburse the state for anything. She would have kept the money for at least nine of the children's trips. Sarah Palin was aware that the expenses claims were fishy and deliberately had them amended so she could keep the money. The simple fact that she has been asked or offered to pay the money back shows that the claims were false.
Where I come from, this is called fraud. When an employee, any employee, files inaccurate expenses claims from their employers, gets the expenses reimbursed, have them challenged in some way, proceeds to amend the claims to try and validate them, the claims are investigated and this person is asked to pay the money back, the employee doesn't just pay the employer back, the employee gets fired and possibly faces criminal charges for fraud. No deals.
What makes this case any different? The claims were false, money was paid, claims were deliberately amended, claims were found to be indeed inaccurate and money has to be returned.
I believe it's about time Sarah Palin's ethics violations were investigated by an independent body, people a bit higher up who won't make any deals on terms dictated by Sarah Palin herself. She has to be investigated by an authority that won't validate fraud.
Updated report: ADN
Image: FBI logo