Updated with statement from Joe Miller, 9:54 p.m. 10/26/10
FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller lied to his former employer several times about using others’ computers for political purposes in 2008 before he finally told the truth, according to documents released Tuesday by the Fairbanks North Star Borough in response to a court order in lawsuits brought by two media outlets.
Documents also show that Miller was barred from employment with the borough for three years after he resigned from his job as a part-time attorney. Miller’s personnel action form said the move was made because of “insufficient notice given.”
Regarding the security breach, Miller wrote an e-mail to his supervisor, lead borough attorney Rene Broker, on March 17, 2008 to acknowledge that he used three other computers five days earlier to access his personal website and participate in a poll for political purposes, then cleared the caches on the computers.
Using computers for political purposes is violation of the borough’s ethics code.
“I lied about accessing all of the computers,” Miller wrote. “I then admitted about accessing the computers, but lied about what I was doing. Finally, I admitted to what I did.”
Miller admitted to clearing out the caches on the computers, an action that cleared out passwords and identifications that Miller’s co-workers were using for other sites.
“I acknowledge that my access to others’ computers was wrong, participating in the poll was wrong, lying was wrong, and there is absolutely no excuse for any of it,” Miller wrote.
Miller was placed on leave immediately following the computer incident while the borough investigated. Broker, who was off at the time, returned to the office on March 26 and informed Miller in a memo that he would be suspended without pay for three days, placed on probation for six months, and have to complete an employee assessment with Magellan Health Services, which provides employee behavioral, financial and legal counseling. Records show he successfully completed the assessment in May of that year.
“It has been apparent in the last several months you are under significant stress and it has affected your judgment, as evidenced by your actions on March 12, 2008,” Broker wrote in the memo.
Broker also noted that she believed the incident was an “isolated offense.” Her memo notes this was Miller’s first offense.
Miller issued a statement late Tuesday maintaining that the records are confidential under state and borough law but that he would not appeal the order made Saturday by a Fairbanks judge hearing the case brought by the media.
"I appear to be the only candidate in this Senate race whose entire life history matters to the media. No one has requested school, medical or work records for Sen. Lisa Murkowski or Scott McAdams,” Miller said. “Regardless, I am willing to let these records go public so that the people can see that the computer polling matter and my decision to leave the borough's employment a year-a-half later were unrelated."
“The Alaskan voters want to hear about the issues,” he said. “That's what they deserve and I will continue to address them.”
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and the online magazine Alaska Dispatch filed separate lawsuits against the borough earlier this month to obtain the records under the state’s public records law. A judge combined the suits, which were later joined by the Anchorage Daily News and The Associated Press.
Miller, through his attorneys, argued in court against the release of the material, but Fairbanks Superior Court Judge Winston Burbank disagreed and ordered the release of most of the requested documents. He set a 4 p.m. Tuesday deadline for Miller to appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court.
Miller earlier this month held a news conference to say he would no longer answer questions about his background. On Monday, after Saturday’s court ruling, he told The Associated Press he had been disciplined by the borough for participating in an online poll. Speaking to CNN last week, he called it a “petty” issue that occurred during his lunch hour.
While borough records do not indicate the nature of the poll, former borough Mayor Jim Whitaker, who was in office at the time, said Miller was engaged in “proxy voting” in a failed effort to oust state GOP chairman Randy Ruedrich at the March 2008 GOP convention. Miller’s father, in a widely circulated e-mail in response to a query from an active Republican Party member in Kodiak, said his son had used computers in an online poll to vote against Ruedrich.
Miller, along with then-Gov. Sarah Palin, was a vocal leader in the effort to remove Ruedrich.
Computer breach detailed
A March 13, 2008 e-mail between Jill Dolan, another borough attorney, and Sallie Stuvek, the borough’s head of human resources, details how Miller’s use of the his co-workers’ computers was discovered almost immediately.
The day before the e-mail was written, Miller told Dolan that he would be coming in before lunch. Dolan left the office just before 1 p.m. for a meeting in the mayor’s office, telling Miller that the legal office door would be locked and that he would be the only one there.
A short time later, she returned to her desk to use Westlaw, an online legal research website, and found that the drop down menu on her Internet search bar had been cleared. Dolan thought the changes to her computer strange and e-mailed her co-workers to see if they had been using her computers.
Another woman, whose name is redacted in the documents but who was apparently another attorney in the legal office, soon told Dolan that Miller had asked to use her computer because he could not access a site on his computer. After he went on the computer, she found her Internet history had been cleared.
Dolan talked to two borough employees about the issues with their computers before confronting Miller.
Miller, who worked as a part-time borough attorney from 2002 until 2009, told Dolan he had been on two computers to access a website that wouldn’t work on his computer and he cleared the caches so that the site wouldn’t be blocked.
“I told him that didn’t make any sense and he was acting like it was no big deal and not worry about it and that he was not on a bad site,” Dolan wrote.
Miller initially denied being on a third computer until another coworker said her cache had been cleared. At one point, he brought up the site of a University of Alaska Fairbanks professor and claimed that was the site he had visited.
Miller’s coworkers were especially upset when they realized he had cleared their saved sites and passwords, according to the e-mail.
After telling Dolan he needed 10 minutes to himself before explaining his actions, Miller left the office for an unspecified period of time. When he returned, he admitted to using the computers to access an online poll.
“He made some comments about being stressed and stupid and kept trying to justify what he did, something about (former borough mayor) Rhonda Boyles being on the radio and telling lies and needing evidence,” Dolan wrote.
Miller reportedly told Dolan he had not violated the borough’s computer policy and in fact said his coworkers violated the borough’s policy by not securing their own computers.
Miller did not access the computer belonging to his supervisor, Broker, because her screen was locked and he did not know her password, Dolan wrote.
Later in the afternoon, Miller repeatedly apologized to Dolan and told her that he would contact the webmaster for his site, joemiller.us, and have the opinion poll changed so that it closed before he entered the extra votes.
The next morning, the poll was altered to only reflect percentages and not actual votes, Dolan wrote.
Borough records also indicate that Miller would have resigned if the borough took actions to terminate his employment. Whitaker, who was mayor at the time, said that he, Broker, Stuvek and his chief of staff had conversations about firing Miller, but that Miller’s job was saved because of the work he was doing on a borough lawsuit to determine how much to tax the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
In a handwritten note, someone at the borough wrote that Miller indicated to her he “had too much on his platter” because of the pipeline lawsuit.
Whitaker said last week that he and other key figures in the borough were concerned Miller had broken state laws when he access the computers, but borough records make no reference to any laws being broken.
Contact staff writer Chris Freiberg at 459-7545.