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Records: GOP's Miller lied about computer use

Alaska Senate hopeful Joe Miller admitted to improperly using three government computers to participate in a political poll, then cleaning the caches to try to cover up the activities.
Image: Alaska's Three Senate Candidates Debate In Anchorage
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller, shown at a Tuesday debate, admitted in 2008 to misusing government computers.Clark James Mishler / Getty Images
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Alaska Republican Senate hopeful Joe Miller admitted to improperly using three co-workers' government computers over a lunch break to access his personal website to participate in a political poll, then cleaning the caches to try to cover up the activities.

Miller's admission and three-day suspension over the event is included in records released Tuesday under court order following an open records request by The Associated Press and other media organizations. The records also show a dispute about leave ahead of his Aug. 28, 2009, resignation.

In a March 2008 statement to Fairbanks North Star Borough Attorney Rene Broker, Miller said he'd lied about accessing all the computers initially when asked and about the reasons why he used them. Clearing the caches also removed passwords and website IDs used by co-workers.

Miller, a Tea Party favorite, is in a three-way race for the Senate. He faces incumbent Lisa Murkowski, now a write-in candidate he beat in the primary, and Democrat Scott McAdams, the mayor of Sitka.

"I appear to be the only candidate in this Senate race whose entire life history matters to the media," Miller said Tuesday in a statement about the release of the records.

He added that the records show that the computer issue and his decision to leave the borough job more than a year later were unrelated.

Miller, who was working as a borough attorney in 2008, said in a March 2008 email he understood his actions were wrong.

The records show Broker suspended Miller for three days and referred him to an employee assistance program, which he successfully completed.

"I expect that you will work hard to rebuild the co-worker relationships that were harmed due to your actions on March 12, 2008," she wrote. "It will take effort on your part to regain their trust."

Miller acknowledged in a March 17, 2008, email that "I did not clear the cache to cause harm to anyone and was not aware of the impact that would cause my fellow employees."

Clearing the caches "also cleared out passwords and IDs for various websites that people were using and was very hurtful. ... I acknowledge that my access to others' computers was wrong, participating in the poll was wrong, lying was wrong, and there is absolutely no excuse for any of it," he wrote.

Miller also wrote that he first lied about accessing the computers, then admitted accessing them but lied about what he was doing and then, "Finally, I admitted what I did."

The issue bubbled up before the primary, when blogger and Murkowski supporter Andrew Halcro posted a piece on his website that read: "We Know Palin Quit ... But why was Miller Fired? Say it ain't so Joe."

Former Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor Jim Whitaker said earlier this month that Miller used the computers in 2008 for a failed attempt to oust state Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich, the Anchorage Daily News reported. After Whitaker's statement, Miller first refused to answer questions from the press about it, then acknowledged he had been disciplined.

Miller's camp disputed any firing, claimed it was a smear and released, in conjunction with the borough, heavily redacted documents related to his tenure.

'Proxy voting'
Whitaker has said it was his understanding, based on briefings from borough officials, that Miller was engaged in "proxy voting" in an effort to oust Ruedrich. Ruedrich, whose party is backing Miller, has said that process didn't exist at the state convention.

An assistant borough attorney who was acting attorney at the time, Jill Dolan, said in a partially redacted memo that Miller admitted to using colleagues' computers "so an opinion poll would have different URLs."

"I explained to him I am not a political person and that I did not appreciate him injecting me into his mess by making it look like I voted in some poll to oust Ruedrich," she wrote, adding later: "He kept saying he was sorry and he was stupid and asked what he should say to everyone else. I told him an apology might be a good start."

Miller told her he had contacted the poll site's Webmaster to change the results so they would end at noon, apparently before he had gotten onto the computers.

Dolan said a later check of his personal website showed percentages rather than the vote count. She wrote that she "did not want Joe at work."

Besides the computer fiasco, an email exchange on Sept. 1, 2009, indicates a disagreement between Miller and Broker over the nature of a denied leave request.

He submitted his resignation to Broker on Aug. 28, 2009.

Miller said in one email that he sought personal leave but that the borough had him change the request to Family and Medical Leave.

He wrote that she had, twice within a week's time, taken "inappropriate actions with regard to my work" — including asking that he draft a memo related to a case even though he had raised concerns about a conflict.

He also complained about the cancellation of a "long-time preapproved" leave.

"Did you or did you not represent that the leave was due to your [redacted]?" Broker said in an email. "You cannot obtain leave on the basis that you need [redacted] immediately and keep the leave when that circumstance changes significantly."

He later canceled a medical procedure that seemed to have been the basis of the leave.