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Gov. Palin to Pay Alaska for 9 Trips Taken by Children

Palin, Trig, Todd

JUNEAU, Alaska -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will reimburse the state nearly $7,000 for costs associated with nine trips taken by her children, her attorney said Tuesday.

Palin must reimburse the state within 120 days, according to a settlement agreement filed by a special investigator hired by the Alaska Personnel Board to investigate an ethics complaint filed against her.

The exact amount will be determined by the Alaska Department of Administration, said Palin's attorney, Thomas Van Flein. He estimated the amount would be $6,800.

There is no state law prohibiting the governor's family from traveling with her and the personnel board found no wrongdoing on the part of the governor. But the investigator, Timothy Petumenos, interpreted the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act to require that state only pay if the first family serves an important state interest.

Petumenos said "some of the travel raised by the Complaint does not meet this standard," according to the agreement.

Van Flein said 72 travel authorizations were studied, with nine found to be of questionable state interest.

Those include airfare and one meal for her daughter Bristol Palin, who accompanied the governor to New York for Newsweek's Third Annual Women and Leadership Conference in October 2007.

Other trips include Bristol attending "Beauty and the Beast" at the Valley Performing Arts Center, airfare for daughters Piper and Bristol to travel to Juneau from Anchorage for the State of the State address and airfare for Piper to attend the start of the Iron Dog snowmachine race and the Alaska Outdoor Council Banquet.

Van Flein said the governor's action in reaching the agreement was voluntary and above what was legally and ethically required of her.

"She did not have to do this. She did not have to reach this agreement and she's been fully cleared by this investigation," he said. "The problem that was raised by the complaint was determined to be a lack of clarity in the rules and regulations and a lack of familiarity, because of that lack of clarity, with long-term state employees whose job it is to handle this."

The complaint was filed in October by Anchorage Democrat Frank Gwartney, 60, who alleged that Palin used her official position as governor for personal gain, violating a statute of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.

It followed a report by The Associated Press that Palin charged the state more than $21,000 for her three daughters' commercial flights, including events where they weren't invited, and later ordered their expense forms amended to specify official state business.

Administration officials have said Alaska law allows governors to charge the state for their family's travel if they conduct state business.