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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Alaska high court upholds fine for former Fairbanks mayor for using government resources during campaign

State Supreme Court

By Sandra Lane | Sep 6, 2018

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Legal Newsline) – The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of a lower court and in fining the former Fairbanks mayor for using government resources in his mayoral campaign in 2013.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) had fined Eberhart $37.50 for improper use of government resources in violation of a state statute. John Eberhart appealed to the Superior Court, Fourth Judicial District, which upheld the ruling of APOC. Afterward, Eberhart appealed to the Supreme Court.

“We affirm the Superior Court’s decision affirming APOC’s final order and civil penalty,” Justice Susan M. Carney wrote in the Aug. 24 ruling.

An unnamed Fairbanks resident filed a complaint against Eberhart with APOC in February 2014. It was alleged that Eberhart had used his work telephone and email during his campaign when he was still a city council member and continued to draw compensation from the city while he was doing this.

“Eberhart asks this court to find that APOC misinterpreted and misapplied relevant statues, violated the First Amendment and violated its own procedural rules. He also claimed that his actions were constitutionally protected as political speech and a legitimate use of government resources,” the ruling states.

In response to this claim, Carney said, “We affirm APOC’s decision, holding that Eberhart’s arguments lack merit.”

In responding to the charges filed with APOC, Eberhart’s attorney said that the charges against him should not be investigated because the complaint did not give specific facts or name the violation of a specific statute as required.

Eberhart's counsel also stated that the letter of complaint did not mention the email address allegation. Nevertheless, APOC said that the complaint would not be dismissed and that it was enough reason to begin an investigation.

When appealing APOC’s decision to the Superior Court, Eberhart listed 14 points that expressed doubt about whether APOC had enough evidence to support its decision. The Superior Court rejected his arguments as did the Supreme Court.

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