Palin's lawyer: No legal troubles

ANCHORAGE, Alaska Palin's early departure has fueled rumors that some legal entanglement not yet known to the public may have compelled her to resign. Sixteen ethics complaints have been filed against Palin in the last year, most of which have been dismissed as baseless.

But Palin's lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, said the Republican governor and former vice presidential candidate has no legal problems whatsoever.

In an interview with The Associated Press, he said that Palin believes that the hostile political climate and legal bills have become too much of a distraction for the state.

"She is leaving now because I think she believes that she has become the issue, rightly or wrongly, with all these ethics complaints and with the issues involving the Legislature, the combativeness they've been demonstrating toward her since she returned from the campaign," Van Flein said of Palin, still widely believed to be a possible presidential candidate in 2012.

"I think she believes it's in the best interest of the state to progress forward, for her to move on to other issues."

Palin has become a lightning rod for partisan politics in Alaska since her return from the 2008 presidential campaign after John McCain selected her as his running mate. She has racked up an estimated $500,000 in legal bills defending the flurry of ethics complaints, including one filed Monday that alleges she is violating ethics law by taking per diem payments when she stays in her Wasilla home instead of the governor's mansion in Juneau.

In addition, her relationship with Senate Democrats - once among her staunchest allies - deteriorated in the last session.

Palin has made only one brief public appearance - watching part of the July 4th parade in Juneau - since her bombshell announcement Friday that she will resign from office at the end of the month. She is scheduled to appear at a bill-signing on Tuesday in Kotzebue, an Alaska village north of the Arctic circle.

The Palin resignation was noticed in halls of the state Capitol in Juneau as well.

The "Time to Make a Difference" clock that counted the time left in Palin's term was taken down from the wall outside her office. And people from around the country called up her office to inquire about the situation, as did a few cruise ship tourists who made the trek to the Capitol.

The young woman at the desk outside Palin's office was busy answering phones.

"Yes, she is getting swamped with e-mails," the woman tells one caller. "Yes, they do get forwarded to the appropriate person."

"Unfortunately, we are having a back load of e-mails so it will take some to get a response," she tells another.

Where is she? Why is she stepping down? When is her last day? Why so soon?

The tour guide tried to politely answer the questions for the tourists when she could, but for the most part had no answers.

Some of the visitors left Palin messages in a guest log.

"Sarah - Please Stay!" one person wrote.

Kathy Waldo-Gilbert, a registered Democrat from Iowa who was on her honeymoon in Alaska, said she was especially disappointed because she believes that Palin's early departure from the governor's job will make it harder for other women who want to be taken seriously in high-profile positions. Waldo-Gilbert voted Republican for the first time in last year's presidential election.

"When things get hard, you stick around," she said.

Palin will be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, who has announced he will seek to retain the office in the 2010 election.

State Rep. John Harris, a former House speaker and Republican from Valdez, announced Monday that he's preparing to file paperwork with state election officials in a bid for governor.

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