FAIRBANKS - Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson of North Pole has been accused of an ethics violation by the Legislative Ethics Committee.
In a decision published Tuesday afternoon, the committee said it found probable cause that Wilson violated two parts of the Ethics Act in January 2014 when she produced and sent a postcard about air quality issues to constituents outside her legislative district using state resources and included the return address of an official legislative office on the postcard.
Wilson has long been involved with the subject of air quality in Fairbanks and surrounding areas and has led several ballot measures in an effort to reduce local government control over air quality.
Wilson said that, while she did include the return address, she did not use government resources to produce or send the postcards.
"I sent a postcard informing those in the North Star Borough that there was a hearing on air quality. I learned that I can’t put the return address of an LIO on the postcard," Wilson said. "I used my own funds for the postcards. I used my own funds for the stamps. The only thing I did, which I learned later, is that I can’t include that return address."
Wilson's comments contradict what was stated in the official investigation findings from the Legislative Ethics Committee.
"Regardless of intent, the committee recognizes the fact that state resources were used to produce and distribute an air quality postcard to individuals not in Rep. Wilson's current legislative district," the committee decision stated.
The action provided a private benefit to Wilson, the committee added.
"This activity could also be construed as a campaigning effort targeted to people outside the existing district of Rep. Wilson," the committee statement said.
Wilson also said she was not previously informed of the violation and was not allowed to go before the committee to discuss the issue.
Jerry Anderson, ethics committee administrator, said he cannot comment on the allegations as they were part of an executive session.
However, according to committee documents, a contract private investigator was used to conduct interviews with Wilson regarding the allegations in the complaint.
The investigator's report was reviewed at a meeting of an ethics panel subcommittee on Jan. 26, 2016, and Aug. 18, 2016.
Alaska ethics law states that "a legislator may not use government asset or resource for a non-legislative purpose, for involvement in or support of or opposition to partisan political activity, or for the private benefit of the legislator" and that "a legislator may not use or authorize the use of government asset or resource for the purpose of political fund raising or campaigning."
Anderson did say that the complaint process can be initiated by the public or by committee.
In this case, the complaint was filed by H. Connor Thomas, chairman of the subcommittee.
"From there, there’s an investigation that takes place and then the committee has a number of ways that they look at it once they get a report," Anderson added. "They can issue a dismissal of the complaint or the other option is to issue what they call the probable cause that the violation occurred, which is what they did in this case."
The subcommittee cautioned Wilson that in the future she should be mindful that state resources used for a general distribution of a communication such as the air quality postcard, which includes individuals not within her legislative district or to those who have not asked to be on her distribution list, is prohibited.
The committee determined no corrective action was warranted, according to committee documents. However, to prevent future violations, the committee strongly recommended "Rep. Wilson read the ethics newsletter more judiciously and contact the Ethics office for clarification or additional information if necessary when applying the information to a fact-specific situation."
"It was more of a future warning that this is a violation and it shouldn’t be repeated," Anderson said. "The process ends at this point because there are no fines, or corrective action."
Contact staff writer Erin Granger at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.