A legislative aide who joined an anti-Islam group and became obsessed with its mission crossed the line and illegally used state resources to promote its interests, a state ethics panel concluded in a ruling released Friday.
Minutes after the ruling was made public, Karen Sawyer’s new boss, state Rep. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, announced that Sawyer resigned her job.
Sawyer’s activism on behalf of Stop Islamization of America became an issue when she was chief of staff to Palmer Rep. Carl Gatto before his death this year. Hughes was appointed to replace Gatto on May 1.
The House subcommittee of the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics recommended that Sawyer be fired and permanently banned from rehire by the Legislature.
The far-right, anti-Islam group describes its goals as support of human rights, religious liberty and freedom of speech, and opposition to Sharia, or Islamic, law. But the Southern Poverty Law Center calls it an anti-Muslim hate group, as does the Anti-Defamation League.
Sawyer allowed an operative for the anti-Islam group, a man named David Heckert, to set up shop inside the Wasilla Legislative Information Office, where he worked for months, according to one of two reports about the ethical lapses by the ethics panel that were released Friday.
Sawyer let Heckert use her personal laptop and Internet card, and provided him a cellphone number under her family plan. She herself used state equipment to plan events for the group. She even gave Heckert her key to the Wasilla LIO so he could get in while she was out of town, the report said.
See also Associated Press, 14 December 2012