ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Thousands of donors who contributed to
a $390,000 legal defense fund for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin
will get their money back after an investigator said Thursday the
fund was illegal because it was misleadingly described on a
State Personnel Board investigator Timothy Petumenos said the
Alaska Fund Trust inappropriately used the word "official" on its
website, wrongly implying that it was endorsed by Palin in her role
But Petumenos also found that Palin - the 2008 GOP vice
presidential nominee - acted in good faith and relied on a team of
attorneys to make sure the fund was lawful and complied with the
Alaska Executive Branch Act.
Palin's attorney, Thomas Van Flein, said the trust brought in
almost $390,000 before Palin stepped down as governor July 26,
2009. More than $33,000 has since been donated, but Van Flein said
that money will go toward $87,680 the trust has incurred in
administrative and other expenses.
"She supports this process 100 percent, and I think she agreed
to this resolution because it was the right thing to do," Van
Flein said. "She never instructed anybody to do anything that
would not comply with federal law or state law."
Another defense fund was set up Thursday for Palin as a private
citizen to pay off the rest of the debt.
Petumenos, an attorney, said another problem with the Alaska
Fund Trust involved the selection of a public official to
administer it. Petumenos' report notes that Kristan Cole holds
positions on important boards and commissions, including an
appointment by Palin to the Board of Agriculture and Conservation.
Thursday's findings are an outgrowth from a preliminary,
confidential report by another board investigator that also
implicated Palin. Petumenos said the first investigator, attorney
Thomas Daniel, withdrew as independent counsel for the personnel
board after Palin challenged the participation of his law firm,
which had ties to President Barack Obama, who defeated Palin's
former running mate John McCain in the presidential election.
The earlier report was issued less than two weeks after Palin
announced she was resigning from office last July.
In announcing her resignation, Palin cited the toll of the
ethics probes as one of the reasons she was stepping down. She has
said she racked up at least $500,000 in legal fees.
Palin's friends and supporters created the Alaska Fund Trust in
April 2009, limiting donations to $150 per person. An ethics
complaint was filed soon after by Eagle River resident Kim Chatman,
who alleged Palin was misusing her official position and accepting
Chatman said she was glad the case came to a resolution,
although she felt it fell short.
"I'm ecstatic the truth came out, but I don't understand how
they said this was a good faith effort on her part and they're
going to blame it on her attorneys," Chatman said. "She's never
accountable for anything."
The multiple ethics complaints include an investigation by state
lawmakers over Palin's firing of her public safety commissioner in
the so-called Troopergate scandal, as well as a complaint over
state-paid trips Palin took with her children as governor.
In the family travel complaint, also investigated by Petumenos,
Palin agreed to reimburse the state about $8,000 for costs
associated with nine trips taken by her children.
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