Waffle #11: Miller admits he was disciplined for politicking on borough computers

LUNCH HOUR: Polling performed on co-workers’ computers; then their caches emptied to hide act.


Published: October 18th, 2010 09:53 PM
Last Modified: October 19th, 2010 07:43 AM

U.S. Senate nominee Joe Miller acknowledged Monday that he was disciplined for violating the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s ethics policy in 2008 when he was a part-time borough lawyer.

The statement, made in an interview on CNN, represents a reversal for Miller, who vowed last week not to answer any questions about his past after questions were raised about his borough work history. Miller, while continuing to refuse to speak with the Daily News and some other Alaska news media, went on CNN on Monday and conceded to anchor John King that he had been disciplined.

“John, I’ll admit I’m a man of many flaws. I’m not going to sit back and say that I’ve conducted my life perfectly,” Miller told the CNN anchor. “I will tell you that anything that I’ve done that’s not right, it’s been accounted for and it’s been taken care of and I move on and I learn from mistakes.”

Former Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker, who was Miller’s boss, said last week that Miller used borough computers for political purposes in 2008 when he organized a failed effort to oust state Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich. Whitaker said Miller was disciplined for the violation of the borough’s ethics code but was not fired because he was part of a legal team that was in the middle of a case over how much to tax the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

The borough’s ethics policy does not allow employees to engage in politics on the job or with government equipment. Miller did not provide details on CNN of what exactly he’d done to be disciplined, and Miller’s campaign refused interview requests on Monday to discuss it. Miller e-mailed a statement saying “the incident had nothing to do with my departure from the Fairbanks North Star Borough nearly a year and a half later. My statement on CNN is accurate.”

Miller has refused to release his borough personnel files and news organizations are suing to get them. The candidate’s private security team handcuffed and detained a reporter Sunday who was trying to ask Miller about the borough employment after an Anchorage town hall meeting, with the private security firm alleging that the reporter was hounding Miller and had shoved someone.

Whitaker said Miller resigned in September 2009 right before he was to be fired. Whitaker said he didn’t know why Miller was about to be fired at that point and that the borough attorney had the discretion to let him go. Borough Attorney Rene Broker has said she’s not able to discuss the matter.

Miller told CNN that the “event” for which he was disciplined by the Fairbanks North Star Borough happened over his lunch hour. He described it as a petty issue that’s come out as a result of a “real effort here in Alaska to basically take away from the Alaskan voter the opportunity to see the issues that are before them … they aren’t things that have anything to do with where we are as a state.”

A Republican activist from Kodiak said Miller’s father, Rex Miller, told him last week that Miller was caught using other borough employees’ computers for online political polling. He said Miller emptied the caches on the computers of his borough colleagues “so the users wouldn’t know what he had done.”

The Miller campaign won’t confirm or deny that. But the account by Mike Rostad, the Republican activist, matches Miller’s statement on CNN that this happened over a lunch hour.

Rostad said he received the phone call from Miller’s father after Kodiak Republicans asked him to find out what happened at the Fairbanks borough. Rostad forwarded the results of the conversation to a number of Republicans in an e-mail sent Thursday night.

Rostad wrote in the e-mail that Rex Miller told him there was a poll being conducted as part of the effort to oust Ruedrich as state Republican Party chairman.

Here’s how Rex Miller described what happened, according to Rostad’s e-mail:

“One noon hour, on his own time at the borough, Joe participated in an online poll voting against Randy. He used four office computers in the office to do it, thinking this was his chance to boost numbers to get rid of Randy. He emptied the cache files on the computers so the users wouldn’t know what he had done. When the users asked what had happened to their caches, (Miller) admitted to what he did. He was reprimanded and docked in pay for several days, but was not suspended or fired.”

“Rex told me that his son called him that same day and admitted that he did a stupid thing. He said he was sorry. Joe was ‘never in danger of being fired at any time,’ Rex said,” Rostad wrote in the e-mail.

Rostad told the Daily News in an interview that the e-mail is “pretty self-explanatory and I would really urge you to get ahold of the Miller campaign and talk directly to them.”

He said he was aware, though, that the Miller campaign won’t talk about it with Alaska media.

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