Lawyer for Legislature sees constitutional problems with Department of Law proposal

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, speaks during a Senate floor session, March 13, 2019.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, speaks during a Senate floor session, March 13, 2019. Wielechowski was one of three legislators who wrote a letter to Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson this week asking for the state to stop a proposal to allow the Department of Law to represent the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general against ethics complaints. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

A lawyer for the Alaska Legislature says a proposal to allow the state Department of Law to represent the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general against ethics complaints may violate provisions of the Alaska Constitution and state law.

Legislative Counsel Daniel Wayne wrote in a memo that the proposal to change state regulations may not serve a public purpose, as required by the state constitution.

Wayne also noted the constitution bars the executive branch from adopting regulations unless a state law allows it. And in this case, Wayne says the law doesn’t allow it.

Wayne wrote the proposal would unconstitutionally provide protections to some state officers but not others.

Anchorage Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski asked for the memo from the Legislature’s nonpartisan legal office.

“There are enormous concerns with what is being proposed,” Wielechowski said. “There are concerns with the constitutionality of it.”

Wielechowski and Anchorage Reps. Gabrielle LeDoux, a Republican, and Andy Josephson, a Democrat, sent a letter to Attorney General Kevin Clarkson expressing their concerns. Wielechowski said the state should stop considering the change.

“It creates ethics issues for the attorneys in the Department of Law,” Wielechowski said. “It creates conflict-of-interest challenges, and there’s just a whole host of concerns with this.”

A Department of Law spokesperson said the letter will be considered as a public comment on the proposal. The department isn’t responding to what’s being submitted while the public comment period is still open. The deadline for the public to respond to the proposal is Nov. 4.

Rule change would allow attorney general to represent governor in ethics complaints

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