The ethics subcommittee of the Alaska House of Representatives ruled Thursday that Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, violated state law by leaking the existence of a confidential ethics complaint to the press.
In a decision released Thursday morning, members of the subcommittee found “by clear and convincing evidence” that Eastman violated Alaska statutes when he alerted an Alaska Journal of Commerce reporter to the complaint in 2017.
“The ethics committee takes the confidentiality provisions very seriously,” said Jerry Anderson, administrator of the Legislature’s select committee on ethics.
The decision does not propose any additional penalties for Eastman, who was stripped of his membership in the Legislature’s ethics committee in January after the subcommittee found probable cause of a civil violation.
“Basically, the House subcommittee did not pose any additional sanctions, since that had already occurred,” Anderson said. Violations of the Legislative Ethics Act by sitting lawmakers are subject to punishment approved by the Legislature.
In April 2017, Eastman told reporter Naomi Klouda that an ethics complaint had been filed against Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, and that Klouda should check with the ethics office.
Under the rules governing the process, ethics complaints are supposed to be confidential.
When Eastman was contacted by an internal investigator in September 2017, he was asked whether he could have told Klouda to call the ethics office 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 said, according to the text of the ruling.
The Journal provided phone records backing Klouda’s assertion that she talked with Eastman, then the ethics office, and the subcommittee “determined that Naomi Klouda appeared to have no motive or reason to provide false information.”
According to the Associated Press, a complaint against LeDoux was dismissed for lack of merit. Details of that complaint remain confidential.
LeDoux declined to talk about Thursday’s ruling when reached by cellphone.
Eastman had challenged January’s probable cause determination, and in a daylong hearing on Tuesday, members of the subcommittee heard evidence for and against the charges, including Eastman’s explicit denial that he shared confidential information.
“Obviously, we’re pleased the committee recognized that Naomi had done her job and been consistent all along,” said Journal of Commerce Editor Andrew Jensen by phone. “Despite the fact that Eastman’s lawyer attacked her credibility quite aggressively, we’re happy the committee did see through that.”
Eastman was one of 18 Republicans in the Alaska House’s minority caucus this past session. House Minority Leader Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, told the Empire, “The process was thorough and fair. I respect the decision by our ethics committee.”
Eastman did not answer a phone message seeking comment Thursday morning but responded by email in the afternoon. He reaffirmed his denial that he violated the law and said the ethics committee “has become a political weapon used for partisan attacks on legislators.”
“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. This information is all now available to the public for everyone to see. When Alaskans talk about draining the swamp in Juneau, the ethics committee should be one of the first places they start,” he wrote.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at email@example.com or 523-2258.