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Alaska High Court Backs Senator in Penalty Case

(CN) - A state senator was improperly disciplined for accepting deferred compensation from an energy company, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission imposed a civil penalty of $630 on state Sen. Ben Stevens for failing to disclose income as a board member of SEMCO Energy Inc. on his Legislative Financial Disclosure Statement.

Stevens did not take the money in cash. He deferred his $37,000, which was accompanied by a similar amount of stock. He sought judicial review of APOC's penalty, and the superior court reversed the decision.

Justice Winfree backed the superior court, ruling that APOC's reporting requirements were ambiguous.

"The instruction manual contained no instructions or examples for reporting deferred income or other expectation of future income," Winfree wrote. "Stevens could have reasonably believed that his deferred income did not need to be reported until distributed and actually received in hand for his unfettered use."

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