By Karl Vick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
WASILLA, Alaska, Sept. 9 -- Gov. Sarah Palin is being asked by a local Republican activist to release more than 1,100 e-mails she withheld from a public records request, including 40 that were copied to her husband, Todd.
Palin had claimed executive privilege for documents copied to her husband, who is not a state employee, in responding to an open records request in June made by Andrée McLeod, an activist in Anchorage. The administrative appeal filed yesterday by McLeod's attorney, Donald C. Mitchell, argued that by copying Todd Palin on sensitive state correspondence, the governor and her aides shattered the privilege rightly afforded elected officials.
"She has allowed Todd Palin -- who has not been elected by the people of Alaska, who is not a state employee -- to entangle himself apparently as he sees fit in the operations of the executive branch of the state government," Mitchell said.
"From the case law, if government voluntarily opens up that internal decision-making to what I would call civilians, then that is waiver of that protection of the government policy decision-making process. That is what happened here, and it happened because Sarah Palin doesn't understand it," he said.
Todd Palin was frequently copied on e-mails relating to Alaska State Troopers and the union representing public safety employees, according to McLeod, who received four boxes of redacted e-mails in response to her request. At the time, both Sarah and Todd Palin were complaining to the state public safety commissioner about a disciplinary matter involving Sarah Palin's ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper.
Palin also routinely does government business from a Yahoo address, firstname.lastname@example.org, rather than her secure official state e-mail address, according to documents already made public.
"Whoops!" Palin aide Frank Bailey wrote, after addressing an e-mail to the governor's official state address. "Frank, This is not the Governor's personal account," a secretary reminded him.
Calls seeking response from the governor were not immediately returned by a Palin spokesperson. Palin last month described McLeod as a disgruntled former employee, though in 2004 Palin endorsed her as a state House candidate "not afraid to stand up for what's right."
Mitchell's appeal, addressed to Palin in her capacity as the decision-maker on the earlier records request, questions the wisdom of the governor and her aides shipping messages about state business between their public and private e-mail accounts "with complete and total abandon," he said.
"There's a reason the governor should be using her own official e-mail channels, because of security and encryption," the lawyer said. "She's running state business out of Yahoo?"
On March 17, minutes after peppering a state official about whether e-mails about state business contained on a personal BlackBerry could become public, senior Palin aide Ivy Frye addressed a message to both Palins and two other aides: "In sum, it's just as I thought -- questions of confidentiality are still unanswered by law."
McLeod, a former state employee who once was close to Palin, filed an ethics complaint last month against Palin and others. She cited e-mail traffic that appeared to show that the governor's office improperly helped a Palin fundraiser obtain a civil service position.
"By withholding these emails, Sarah Palin has broken on her promise of being open, honest and transparent," McLeod said in a statement. "It's old-school politics and not the kind of reform she pledged to Alaskans."