Former Juneau Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch has been fined $18,104 for asking for an oil company job while sitting as a state lawmaker who helped draft oil tax legislation.
But his attorney said the opinion released by a legislative ethics committee may not be the final word on the matter.
The House Subcommittee of the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics released their probable cause complaint and final opinion on Tuesday after 10 meetings on the case over the last nine years.
The ethics committee alleged Weyhrauch violated the Legislative Ethics Act by obtaining a promise of future employment with oil services company VECO for helping to draft the Petroleum Profits Tax bill that then-Gov. Frank Murkowski was pushing.
They also found that Weyhrauch agreed or implied that — in exchange for the potential job — he would make sure the bill benefited VECO.
The committee also determined that he exerted official influence on other lawmakers by encouraging them to vote the same way on the oil tax bill, also known as PPT.
The committee determined that Weyhrauch had 51 amendments drafted for the bill as the legislature met in spring 2006. That same year, he sent six letters soliciting clients and employment. Of those, one each was sent to VECO, BP Exploration and ExxonMobil. He also offered his office space to an out-of-state VECO attorney.
The panel said Weyhrauch’s actions demonstrated a conflict of interest even though there was no evidence that he ultimately was employed by VECO.
Reached for comment Wednesday, Weyhrauch referred all questions to his attorney, Doug Pope.
“We contest everything that’s in that probable cause finding, other than the fact that Bruce was a legislator,” Pope said.
Pope said Weyhrauch cooperated with the committee, but he said it was time for the panel to prove their claims.
“They’re going to have to prove that before the full committee and they’re going to have to justify their decision before a court of law,” Pope said.
Pope said the process will likely go on for awhile longer, but not nearly as long as the ethics committee took with their investigation.
“The sword has been hanging over Bruce and (wife) LuAnn’s head for too long,” Pope said.
During their Jan. 26 meeting, the ethics committee fined him $5,000 for each of the three violations. They also tacked on an additional $3,103.70 for expenses related to the investigation and adjudication. Weyhrauch must pay the fine by Feb. 16, 2017. He must also write a public letter of apology within the next 30 days.
As an alternative, ethics committee Administrator Jerry Anderson said Weyhrauch has until March 7 to request a public hearing or closed-door meeting with the ethics committee.
If Weyhrauch does not comply, then the ethics committee will file formal charges against him.
Weyhrauch served in the state House representing a portion of Juneau for four years beginning in 2003. He was indicted in May 2007 after a corruption probe by the U.S. Department of Justice that resulted in the indictments of other lawmakers like former House Speaker Pete Kott, former Wasilla Rep. Vic Kohring and U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder moved to throw out Stevens’ conviction because of prosecutorial misconduct before Stevens died in a plane crash in 2010.
Weyhrauch eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor state charge of aiding an unregistered lobbyist after federal prosecutors dropped four felony charges against him.
Weyhrauch was fined $1,000 and received a suspended sentence of three months in prison during his sentencing in March 2011.
Weyhrauch told the court he was sorry and he took responsibility for the facts laid out in the plea agreement. He accused the media of getting the story all wrong and never believed he was guilty of the charges lodged by the federal government.
(Editor’s note: Corrected sentence regarding possible actions of ethics committee and the potential filing of formal charges instead of criminal charges.)