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Leman Loses in Pot Suit Ruling


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Source: Anchorage Daily News (AK)
Author: Sheila Toomey, Anchorage Daily News
Published: October 26, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Anchorage Daily News 
Contact: [email protected] 

Proposition 2: Judge rules against handling of voter pamphlet statement.

Lt. Gov. Loren Leman violated his obligation to assure the "integrity, credibility and impartiality" of state elections when his office wrote the official voter pamphlet statement opposing legalization of marijuana and had someone else sign it, a Superior Court judge ruled Monday.

However, Judge Mark Rindner concluded there is no acceptable way to fix the wrong done by Leman. Passing out corrective leaflets to voters or posting notices near ballot boxes would foster confusion and violate laws against campaigning at the polls, Rindner said, limiting his action to a declaratory judgment.

Each election year, supporters and opponents of ballot measures are invited to submit pro and anti statements for inclusion in an informational booklet of candidates and issues mailed to 300,000 Alaskans. Producing the voter pamphlet is the responsibility of the lieutenant governor, part of his job to manage state elections. 

When no one volunteered a statement against Proposition 2, which would legalize and regulate marijuana in Alaska, Leman's chief of staff Annette Kreitzer wrote one and Leman sent it to Dr. Charles Herndon with a note that said, "Thank you for considering my request for you to sign this statement, revise it, or write a statement of your own."

Herndon tinkered with it in a minor way and signed it. It was published in the pamphlet along with a statement advocating for Proposition 2, written by supporters of the measure.

Herndon is the medical director of a drug and alcohol treatment program in Anchorage and has said he agrees with what Leman's office wrote.

"Yes on 2" sued Leman on Friday after reading an Anchorage Press story about how the statement got written. It is illegal and unethical for the person in charge of running elections to take sides while administering the process, they said.

At a hearing Monday, Rindner peppered both sides with questions, trying to brush away political rhetoric and narrow the issue. Isn't it in the public interest to have both pro and anti statements in the pamphlet, he said. And isn't it true that past lieutenant governors have solicited statements from both sides?

But he agreed with Yes on 2 attorney Ken Jacobus that Leman crossed the line by having his staff actually write the statement for one side in a partisan issue. 

The spirit of the other national obsession quickly overtook the hearing and baseball metaphors dominated the discourse.

Rindner, a distraught Yankees fan, compared Leman to an umpire assigned to the World Series suggesting a lineup to the Red Sox manager. Should a person who is "supposed to be the umpire be writing a statement for one side or the other?" he asked. 

Assistant attorney general Keith Levy, also a Yankees fan, agreed that Leman's action "does look a little odd. ... The question is whether there is really any harm here." 

No law forbids the lieutenant governor from drafting a pamphlet statement, although perhaps "it creates an appearance of impropriety," he said.

Jacobus, apparently a fan of Shakespeare rather than baseball, said where elections are concerned, any lieutenant governor has to be "like Caesar's wife," meaning he must maintain the appearance of propriety in addition to behaving properly.

In his ruling, issued later in the day, Rindner said the anti statement signed by Herndon wasn't a problem, only the way it got into the pamphlet. 

The judge said he hoped the judgment against Leman would "promote in the future scrupulous observance by the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of his obligations" as the manager of elections. 

Leman issued a statement late Monday that did not directly address Rindner's judgment against him. In it Leman defended Kreitzer's integrity, which was not attacked. He said he was glad Rindner said that no one in Leman's office showed either the pro or the con statements to the other side. 

"I am satisfied that Judge Mark Rindner confirmed in his ruling that no laws were broken," Leman's statement said.

However, Rindner said in his ruling that Leman had violated Alaska Statute 15.10.105, a law that says in part: "It is essential that the non partisan nature, integrity, credibility, and impartiality of the administration of elections be maintained."

Daily News reporter Sheila Toomey can be reached at [email protected]

Related Articles & Web Site:

Yes on 2 Alaska

Lt. Governor Abuses His Election Authority

Marijuana Proponents Sue State, Leman

MJ Measure Backers Sue Over Opposition




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