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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. Grimm v. Wagoner (9/19/2003) sp-5737

Grimm v. Wagoner (9/19/2003) sp-5737

     Notice:   This opinion is subject to correction  before
     publication  in  the  Pacific  Reporter.   Readers  are
     requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk
     of  the  Appellate  Courts, 303  K  Street,  Anchorage,
     Alaska 99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878,
     e-mail corrections@appellate.courts.state.ak.us.


            THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA
                                

WILLIAM GRIMM and MERRILL     )
McGAHAN,                 )    Supreme Court No. S-10953
                              )
              Appellants,       )    Superior Court  No.  3AN-02-
12950 CI
                              )
     v.                       )    O P I N I O N
                              )
THOMAS  H.  WAGONER, STATE      )    [No. 5737  -  September  19,
2003]
OF ALASKA, DIVISION OF        )
ELECTIONS, and LOREN LEMAN,   )
in his official capacity as Lieutenant  )
Governor,                     )
                              )
             Appellees.            )
________________________________)


          Appeal  from the Superior Court of the  State
          of    Alaska,   Third   Judicial    District,
          Anchorage, Peter A. Michalski, Judge.

          Appearances:  Arthur S. Robinson, Robinson  &
          Associates, Soldotna, and John M.  Rice,  Law
          Office  of  John M. Rice, P.C.,  Juneau,  for
          Appellants.    Jeffrey  D.   Jefferson,   The
          Jefferson  Law  Office, Kenai,  for  Appellee
          Thomas  H.  Wagoner.  Jan  Hart  DeYoung  and
          Sarah  Felix,  Assistant  Attorneys  General,
          Anchorage,  and  Gregg  D.  Renkes,  Attorney
          General,  Juneau,  for  Appellees  State   of
          Alaska,  Division  of  Elections,  and  Loren
          Leman.   James  E.  Fosler, Keesal,  Young  &
          Logan,  Anchorage, for Amicus  Curiae  Alaska
          State Legislature.

          Before:    Fabe,  Chief  Justice,   Eastaugh,
          Bryner,  and Carpeneti, Justices.  [Matthews,
          Justice, not participating.]

          EASTAUGH, Justice.

I.   INTRODUCTION

           Alaska  Statute 39.50.030(a) requires  candidates  for

elected  office  to  file  disclosure  statements  containing  an

"accurate  representation"  of their  financial  affairs.   State

senate candidate Thomas Wagoner filed a disclosure statement that

failed   to   disclose  several  actual  or  potential  financial

interests.   Two voters filed a private post-election enforcement

action under AS 39.50.100, claiming that AS 39.50.060(b) required

Wagoner to forfeit the election.  The superior court conducted  a

trial  and held for Wagoner.  We conclude that the superior court

did  not  err in applying a "substantial compliance" standard  in

deciding whether Wagoner satisfied the disclosure law.   We  also

conclude that it did not err in alternatively ruling that if  the

lawsuit was a Title 15 election contest, plaintiffs had to  prove

that  the omissions had an effect on the outcome of the election.

We therefore affirm.

II.  FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

           Thomas  H.  Wagoner,  a  candidate  for  state  Senate

District  Q,  filed  his  Public  Official  Financial  Disclosure

Statement  May 17, 2002.  Wagoner was elected in the November  5,

2002  general election.  He defeated the incumbent by 123  votes,

and also defeated two other candidates.

           On  November 18 William Grimm and Merrill McGahan, two

qualified  voters,  filed a civil action under  AS  39.50.100  to

enforce  AS  39.50, Alaska's Public Official Financial Disclosure

Law.1   Their  complaint  alleged  that  Wagoner  materially  and

substantially failed to disclose some of his business  interests,

and sought an order preventing him from taking office.  They also

moved for a temporary restraining order to enjoin the Division of

Elections from certifying the Senate District Q election results.

Their  supporting  memorandum explained that their  civil  action

sought   to   implement  AS  39.50.060(b),  which  prevents   the

lieutenant  governor  from certifying the  election  of  "elected

officials" who fail to comply with AS 39.50.

          The complaint did not name the Division of Elections as

a  defendant.  On November 25 the superior court ruled  that  the

Division of Elections was an essential party and denied Grimm and

McGahan's   injunction  motion  as  premature.    Their   amended

complaint  included the Division of Elections and the  lieutenant

governor  as  defendants, but on November 27 the  superior  court

again  denied  their injunction motion, finding irreparable  harm

unlikely   and   the  probability  of  success  on   the   merits

"extraordinarily  low."  On the same day,  the  Director  of  the

Division of Elections certified Wagoner's election.

           Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) staff reviewed

Wagoner's  disclosures  after  Grimm  and  McGahan  filed   suit.

Informed  by  APOC that a fine would accrue for failure  to  file

properly, Wagoner amended his disclosure statement November 21 to

acknowledge   additional  business  interests  and  associations.

Wagoner  explained to APOC that he had believed certain  matters,

including his position as officer of a homeowners' association in

California,  did  not have to be disclosed under  the  disclosure

law.

             Following   its   audit,   APOC   staff   issued   a

"Recommendation  for Commission Action."  The  staff  found  that

some  of  the  new  information  provided  by  Wagoner,  such  as

disclosures relating to inactive business interests, did not need

to  be  disclosed under AS 39.50.  But the staff also found  that

two  omissions did require disclosure - Wagoner's position in the

homeowners'  association,  and  a business  interest  in  Wagoner

Rental  Properties,  a  real  estate proprietorship  Wagoner  had

previously  listed as a source of income.  Wagoner had previously

disclosed  the location of the rental properties, but  failed  to

include Wagoner Rental Properties as a business interest  in  the

business  interest schedule of the disclosure form.  The  maximum

fine  for  these omissions, at ten dollars per day from the  time

the  disclosure  statement was due until  it  was  complete,  was

$1,740,   per  staff  calculations.   Nevertheless,   the   staff

recommended that the fine be reduced to $150 because Wagoner  was

an  inexperienced filer, his omission of the business interest in

Wagoner  Rental Properties was inadvertent, and he had cooperated

fully  with APOC staff by correcting his omissions as quickly  as

possible.

            The   APOC   commissioners  met  in  early  December,

considered  the  audit,  and accepted the  staff  recommendation.

APOC   issued   a   December  13  order  identifying   disclosure

violations, and fined Wagoner $150 for the two omissions cited in

the staff recommendation.  On the same day APOC issued its order,

Wagoner  wrote  to APOC, stating that a review of  his  financial

records  with  his  personal  accountant  revealed  three   other

omissions  that  were potentially disclosable:  the  name  of  an

occasional tenant of Wagoner Rental Properties; a "loan" from his

mother  used  to  pay  for her convalescent  care;  and  a  Small

Business  Administration loan that had been  paid  off.   Wagoner

filed  amendments  to his disclosure statement  reflecting  these

matters.  The APOC commissioners apparently had not taken  action

as  to  these  amendments  at the time  the  present  appeal  was

commenced in our court.

           On  December 23 the superior court heard oral argument

on  the parties' motions to establish the applicable law and  for

summary  judgment.  On the day of oral argument Grimm and McGahan

filed  a  proposed  second amended complaint alleging  disclosure

failures not alleged in their earlier complaint.

           By order of December 26, the superior court denied the

parties'  motions for summary judgment, and ruled that  the  case

would  be  treated as an election contest.  The court ruled  that

failure  to  comply  with  AS  39.50 may  constitute  a  "corrupt

practice"  under  the  election contest  statute,  and  that  the

disclosure   requirements  did  not  create  a   constitutionally

impermissible  qualification for office.  The  court  also  ruled

that  in  construing AS 39.50 together with AS 15.20, the  proper

question  before the court was whether Wagoner's alleged failures

to  disclose were sufficient to change the result of the election

-  the  standard for contesting an election under  AS  15.20.540.

The court rejected the plaintiffs' assertion that AS 39.50 should

be strictly construed.

           Although  it applied the general framework  of  an  AS

15.20  election contest to the plaintiffs' challenge,  the  court

ruled  that  one procedural requirement for a Title  15  election

contest  -  the  ten-voter requirement2 - was "overcome"  by  the

precedence  clause  in the ballot initiative that  created  Title

39's Public Official Financial Disclosure Law.3

           Grimm  and McGahan filed a petition for review of  the

December  26  order.   While that petition was  pending  in  this

court,  the superior court conducted a bench trial on January  2,

2003.   On  January  6  the superior court  issued  a  memorandum

decision and judgment dismissing the plaintiffs' complaint.

           The  superior court dismissed on alternative theories.

The court ruled that if the plaintiffs' challenge were considered

an  election  contest under Title 15, it would fail  because  the

plaintiffs did not show that Wagoner's alleged nondisclosures had

an   effect   on  the  outcome  of  the  election.    The   court

alternatively ruled that Wagoner had substantially complied  with

the  requirements  of  AS 39.50, and that he  was  therefore  not

subject   to   forfeiture  of  office  under   AS   39.50.060(b).

Therefore, whether it was treated as a Title 15 election  contest

or  as  an  AS  39.50  enforcement  proceeding,  the  plaintiffs'

challenge failed.

           Grimm  and  McGahan appealed.  We ordered  accelerated

briefing  and heard oral argument January 17 because  January  21

was  the  day  legislators were to be installed in  office.4   We

issued  a  dispositive order January 17.  The order affirmed  the

superior  court's  judgment dismissing the  plaintiffs'  lawsuit.

This opinion explains our reasons for affirming.

III. DISCUSSION

          A.   Standard of Review

           Questions  regarding the application,  interpretation,

and  constitutionality of a statute are questions of law to which

we  apply  our  independent judgment.5  We interpret  the  Alaska

Constitution   and   Alaska  Statutes   "according   to   reason,

practicality,  and  common sense, taking into account  the  plain

meaning  and  purpose of the law as well as  the  intent  of  the

drafters."6   We  also  use our independent  judgment  to  review

whether the superior court applied an incorrect legal standard.7

           "Because the public has an important interest  in  the

stability  and  finality of election results, we have  held  that

`every  reasonable presumption will be indulged in favor  of  the

validity of an election.' "8

           Under Alaska Civil Rule 52(a) a trial court's findings

of  fact will not be set aside unless they are clearly erroneous.

We will reverse a trial court's findings only if we are left with

a  definite and firm conviction that the court erred.9  We  apply

our  independent judgment to the trial court's application of law

to undisputed facts.10

          B.     It  Is  Not  Necessary  To  Decide  Whether   AS
          39.50.060(b) Provides a Post-Certification Remedy.
          
           Plaintiffs  claim that AS 39.50.060(b)  requires  that

Wagoner  be ordered to forfeit his election.  Because plaintiffs'

claims  were  tried  after the Division  of  Elections  certified

Wagoner's  election,  the state and amicus  curiae  Alaska  State

Legislature argue that the remedies listed in AS 39.50.060(b) are

unavailable.  Subsection .060(b) provides:

               Any person failing or refusing to comply
          with  the  requirements of this  chapter,  in
          addition  to the penalties prescribed,  shall
          forfeit nomination to office and may  not  be
          seated  or installed in office if the  person
          has  not  complied.   Nominated,  hired,   or
          appointed  officials, commissioners,  chairs,
          or members of commissions or boards specified
          in  AS  39.50.200(b) may not be confirmed  by
          the  legislature if compliance has  not  been
          made.  In the case of elected officials,  the
          lieutenant   governor,  or  other  certifying
          authority,   may  not  certify   a   person's
          nomination   for  office  or   the   person's
          election to office if compliance was not made
          within the time required.  The nomination  to
          office   or  election  to  office  shall   be
          certified to the highest vote getter for that
          nomination  for  that office or  election  to
          that office who has complied within the times
          required  and who shall be declared nominated
          or elected.  For purposes of this subsection,
          a  person  is  considered  to  have  complied
          within   the  time  required  if  the  person
          complies  within 30 days after the  due  date
          established by this chapter.
          
           The  state  argues  that  as  a  matter  of  statutory

construction,  AS  39.50.060(b) does not authorize  any  sanction

that  could  operate after the candidate's election is certified.

The state contends that the first sentence of the subsection is a

"broad  declaration of the principle that public officials should

not begin office without first complying with the public official

financial  disclosure requirements," and that  implementation  of

the subsection in this case is governed by the sentence beginning

"[i]n  the case of elected officials."11  The state asserts  that

the  certification  clause in the third  sentence  of  subsection

.060(b) only authorizes courts to prevent the lieutenant governor

from certifying the election of a noncomplying candidate.

           It  is  not  necessary  to decide  whether  subsection

.060(b)   provides  a  post-certification  judicial  remedy   for

challenges  to  "elected officials."  Because we hold  for  other

reasons  that  the  superior court did not  err  in  denying  the

forfeiture remedy, see Parts III.D and E below, we do not have to

consider this alternative ground for affirming.

          The state and the legislature also argue that we should

construe  subsection .060(b) narrowly to avoid  interfering  with

the   power  delegated  by  the  Alaska  Constitution   to   each

legislative   house  to  be  "the  judge  of  the  election   and

qualifications  of its members."12  The legislature  argues  that

given  this delegation, permitting a post-certification  judicial

forfeiture   remedy   could  implicate   separation   of   powers

principles.

           Because  the result we reach today rejects  Grimm  and

McGahan's  arguments on their merits, and consequently  does  not

disturb  the certification of Wagoner's election, we do not  have

to   consider  whether  a  different  result  might  have  raised

separation  of  powers  questions of  the  sort  the  legislature

discusses in its amicus brief.

          C.    We  Do  Not  Need To Decide Whether the  Superior
          Court   Properly  Applied  Title  15  Election  Contest
          Standards.
          
           The  superior court order establishing the  applicable

rule  of  law  stated that a failure to disclose under  AS  39.50

could  be  a "corrupt practice" under AS 15.20.540, and that  the

proper  question before the court was whether Wagoner's omissions

were  sufficient  to change the result of the  election.   "[A]ny

corrupt  practice  as  defined by law sufficient  to  change  the

results  of  the  election" is a ground for an  election  contest

under AS 15.20.540.

           On  appeal  Grimm and McGahan argue that the  superior

court  erred  in applying Title 15 election contest standards  to

their AS 39.50.100 action.  Whether it erred in doing so presents

an  ostensibly  threshold  question,  but  the  superior  court's

alternative grounds for entering judgment against the  plaintiffs

make it unnecessary for us to decide this question.  The superior

court  resolved  the case by applying Title 15  election  contest

standards, and alternatively by applying AS 39.50 alone.  Because

it  was proper to dismiss plaintiffs' suit under either approach,

we  do  not  need to address whether the superior court  properly

applied  Title  15 election contest standards.   For  reasons  we

discuss  below,  the  superior court did  not  err  under  either

analysis,  and  we therefore do not decide whether  the  superior

court  erred by applying Title 15 standards to this AS  39.50.100

action.

          D.    The Lawsuit Cannot Succeed as a Title 15 Election
          Contest  Because  Plaintiffs  Did  Not  Demonstrate  an
          Effect on the Outcome of the Election.
          
            Applying  Title  15  election  contest  standards  to

plaintiffs'  lawsuit, the superior court ruled against  them  for

two  reasons.   First, it found that although Grimm  and  McGahan

demonstrated   a   "reckless   violation"   of   the   disclosure

requirements,  they  did not prove a "knowing  violation,  as  is

required by all the other types of corrupt practices which  could

lead to loss of this election contest."  Second, it reasoned that

even  if  the  plaintiffs had demonstrated a "corrupt  practice,"

they  failed to show that Wagoner's nondisclosures had an  effect

on the outcome of the election, as AS 15.20.540 requires.

           On appeal Grimm and McGahan argue that it was error to

apply a Title 15 analysis to their lawsuit, but they do not argue

that  they demonstrated an effect on the outcome of the election.

It  is  unnecessary to address the superior court's first  reason

for  dismissing  the lawsuit under Title 15 because  the  court's

second  reason - the absence of a showing that Wagoner's  alleged

failures  had  an  effect on the outcome of  the  election  -  is

determinative.   The superior court noted in  its  decision  that

Grimm  and  McGahan "acknowledge that they do not have sufficient

evidence  to  prove the high standard of election contest  cases.

They   cannot  show  that  the  disclosure  failures  here   were

sufficient  to  change  the result of the election."   Grimm  and

McGahan  challenge the application of Title 15  election  contest

standards  on  appeal,  but they do not  challenge  the  superior

court's  evidentiary findings under this standard.  We  therefore

accept  the  superior court's finding that Grimm and McGahan  did

not  demonstrate an effect on the outcome of the election.  Given

this  finding,   the  lawsuit could not succeed  as  a  Title  15

election contest.  The superior court did not err in holding that

plaintiffs did not satisfy Title 15.

          E.    Substantial  Compliance Is  the  Proper  Standard
          Under AS 39.50.060(b).
          
           The superior court alternatively dismissed the lawsuit

because   it  concluded  that  substantial  compliance  was   the

appropriate  standard under AS 39.50, and because it  found  that

Wagoner  substantially  complied with  the  chapter's  disclosure

requirements.   We consider first whether substantial  compliance

was the correct standard for enforcing AS 39.50.060(b).

                    1.   Neither the statute nor Alaska precedent
               specifies the standard of compliance.
               
           On appeal Grimm and McGahan argue that AS 39.50.060(b)

requires  forfeiture  for candidates who do not  strictly  comply

with  the  disclosure requirements of AS 39.50.   The  state  and

amicus  curiae  Alaska State Legislature argue  that  substantial

compliance   is   the  standard  for  avoiding  penalties   under

subsection .060(b).

           The first sentence of AS 39.50.060(b) states that  the

subsection applies to "[a]ny person failing or refusing to comply

with  the requirements of [the] chapter." (Emphasis added.)   The

third  sentence states that "[i]n the case of elected  officials,

the  lieutenant governor . . . may not certify . . . the person's

election  to  office if compliance was not made within  the  time

required."  (Emphasis  added.)  Neither  sentence  specifies  the

level  of  noncompliance  required to  justify  a  penalty  under

subsection  .060(b).  And neither indicates whether a failure  to

strictly  comply  with the disclosure statutes is  sufficient  to

require  forfeiture of office under subsection .060(b).  We  must

therefore determine what standard the legislature intended to  be

applied when forfeiture is sought under AS 39.50.060(b).

            In  deciding  to  apply  the  substantial  compliance

standard,  the  superior court reasoned that  this  standard  was

needed  to  distinguish  trivial  from  non-trivial  errors   and

omissions.

           Grimm  and McGahan essentially give three reasons  why

strict  compliance  should be the appropriate  standard.   First,

they claim that "[t]he unambiguous language of AS 39.50.060(b) is

mandatory."  We are unconvinced that the language of the  statute

is  clear  and mandatory in the way plaintiffs think.  Subsection

.060(b) does not specify the level of noncompliance necessary  to

trigger   a   forfeiture  of  office.   Contrary  to  plaintiffs'

supposition, the statute's statement that any person  failing  to

comply  "shall forfeit nomination to office and may not be seated

or   installed,"  does  not  indicate  an  appropriate  level  of

compliance.13  That the penalty for a violation may be  mandatory

does not tell us how to decide whether a violation has occurred.

           Second,  the  plaintiffs  observe  that  AS  39.50.030

requires the disclosure of "all" relevant business interests  and

sources of income, and implicitly argue that a mandate for strict

compliance  exists  in  the  disclosure requirements  themselves.

This  argument is also unpersuasive.  Passages in AS 39.50.030(b)

undeniably require that disclosure statements must include  "all"

or  "each" relevant business interest or source of income.14  But

the mandatory and comprehensive language of these requirements in

subsection  .030(b) does not clarify the level  of  noncompliance

necessary for forfeiture under subsection .060(b).  The mandatory

and  comprehensive language of the disclosure requirements is not

surprising.  Less demanding language would make it impossible  to

determine  what  disclosure is needed and the  sufficiency  of  a

given  disclosure enforcement.  Nonetheless, it  remains  unclear

what level of noncompliance with the disclosure requirements  can

lead to the forfeiture penalty described in subsection .060(b).15

The  level  of compliance required by the disclosure requirements

of subsection .030(b) does not specify the level of noncompliance

necessary  to  trigger  the  penalties  described  in  subsection

.060(b).

           Third,  the  plaintiffs assert that we  have  required

strict  compliance in analogous situations, and cite  Silides  v.

Thomas,16  Falke  v.  State,17 and State, Alaska  Public  Offices

Commission  v. Marshall18 in support.  In Silides  and  Falke  we

applied a strict compliance standard to the filing deadlines  for

required  election  disclosures, and noted that  election  filing

deadlines  are  generally strictly enforced.19   In  Marshall  we

declared void the election of a local municipal officer who filed

a preelection disclosure form long after the election.20  In that

case  we  observed  that  the candidate's violations  "cannot  be

characterized  as trivial," and expressly reserved  the  question

whether   a   trivial  violation  could  trigger  the  forfeiture

sanction.21

           These  cases  are  distinguishable  from  the  present

situation.   We  agree with the superior court that  there  is  a

difference  between strictly enforcing election filing deadlines,

and  measuring  the  extent to which a disclosure  complies  with

substantive  requirements.   Determining  whether  a  candidate's

disclosure  statement  is substantively in  compliance  with  the

requirements of the disclosure law is markedly more  subtle  than

determining  whether the statement was timely  filed.   Assessing

compliance with filing deadlines is straightforward; a  statement

is  either timely filed or it is not.  Given the complexities  of

assessing  substantive compliance, it is  not  apparent  why  the

strict  compliance  standard applicable  in  the  election-filing

deadline cases should apply here.

           Grimm  and McGahan also argue that a failure to comply

with  the  substance  of AS 39.50.030 is actually  a  failure  to

satisfy   the  filing  deadline,  because  the  statute  requires

disclosure  of  all  relevant  interests.22   They  reason   that

Wagoner's  disclosure  statement  was  not  complete,   and   was

therefore  not timely.  But this argument tells us nothing  about

whether the timely filed disclosure was substantively sufficient.

Accepting  the  plaintiffs' logic, any disclosure  deficiency  no

matter how trivial would be an untimely filing.

          We reserved in Marshall the question whether forfeiture

could  be triggered by trivial failures to comply with disclosure

requirements.23   That  reservation  implicitly  recognized   the

difference  between  substantive compliance and  compliance  with

filing  deadlines.   We  decline to merge substantive  compliance

with  deadline compliance, and conclude that neither the  statute

nor   Alaska   precedent  specifies  the  level  of   substantive

compliance  required  to  avoid forfeiture  of  office  under  AS

39.50.060(b).

                      2.     Applying  a  substantial  compliance
               standard   is   consistent  with   the   "accurate
               representation" language of AS 39.50.030(a).
               
          Grimm and McGahan's private enforcement action under AS

39.50.100  seeking  an  AS  39.50.060(b)  forfeiture  necessarily

assumed that Wagoner failed to satisfy AS 39.50.030.24  Subsection

.030(a)  requires that each disclosure statement "be an  accurate

representation of the financial affairs of the public official or

candidate."25   The criterion for measuring compliance  with  the

substantive  requirements of AS 39.50 is  therefore  whether  the

disclosure   provides   an  "accurate  representation"   of   the

candidate's  finances.   To  apply subsection  .060(b)'s  penalty

provisions,  at  a  minimum a court would have  to  find  that  a

candidate  failed  to provide an "accurate representation"  under

subsection  .030(a).   Is strict compliance with  the  disclosure

requirements necessary to provide an "accurate representation" of

a candidate's finances?  The answer is "no."

           "Accurate"  means  variously "in exact  conformity  to

fact,"   or  "conforming  closely  to  a  standard."26   Use   of

"representation"  as  part  of the  statutory  standard  is  more

consistent with the latter definition.  A "representation"  is  a

depiction    or   description,27   and   the   phrase   "accurate

representation"  implies close conformity  rather  than  absolute

precision.   An  "accurate representation" does  not  necessarily

connote  or  imply flawless perfection; it can be  achieved  with

something less than absolute exactitude.

            We   therefore  read  "accurate  representation"   in

subsection  .030(a)  as  not precluding a substantial  compliance

standard for enforcement of subsection .060(b).  A candidate  can

"comply"  with subsection .030(a) for the purposes of  subsection

.060(b)   without   strictly  complying  with   the   substantive

disclosure requirements.

                     3.    Substantial compliance  is  consistent
               with the purposes of the chapter.
               
           Enforcing AS 39.50.060(b) for failing to substantially

comply  with the disclosure requirements is consistent  with  the

statutorily declared purposes of the disclosure statute.   Alaska

Statute 39.50.010(a) lists these purposes:

          (1)   to  discourage  public  officials  from
          acting upon a private or business interest in
          the performance of a public duty;
          (2)  to assure that public officials in their
          official  acts are free of the  influence  of
          undisclosed private or business interests;
          (3)   to develop public confidence in persons
          seeking or holding public office, enhance the
          dignity   of  the  offices  and   make   them
          attractive  to citizens who are motivated  to
          public service; and
          (4)   to develop accountability in government
          by  permitting  public access to  information
          necessary   to  judge  the  credentials   and
          performance of those who seek and hold public
          office.
          
          These purposes call for an "accurate representation" of

a  candidate's  financial interests, but they do not  require  or

imply  absolute precision.  In the context of subsection .060(b),

mandatory  forfeiture for public officials who  do  not  strictly

comply  with  the  substantive  disclosure  requirements  is  not

necessary  to effectuate these goals.         Grimm  and  McGahan

argue  that  "[d]isclosure  of  the  candidate's  financial   and

business  interests  is  required so  that  voters  can  make  an

informed  decision at the ballot box."  Public access to accurate

information  is  necessary to ensure governmental integrity,  but

minor  errors in disclosure statements do not interfere with  the

public's  ability  to  judge the credentials  of  candidates  for

public office.  It would also seem that the expressed purpose  of

attracting citizens to public office would be defeated if trivial

or  inconsequential errors could deprive voters of  the  officers

they elected.28

            Furthermore,  subsection  .010(b)(5)   asserts   that

"reasonable  disclosure requirements do not have  the  effect  of

chilling the exercise of the right of a qualified person to  seek

or  hold public office."  The prospect of mandatory forfeiture of

elected office despite substantial compliance with AS 39.50 could

chill interest in public office.

                     4.    A  strict  compliance  standard  would
               thwart  voter  intent in contravention  of  Alaska
               law.
               
          We have often stated that "every reasonable presumption

will  be  indulged  in favor of the validity of  an  election."29

There  is  a "well-established policy" favoring the stability  of

election   results   in   the  face  of   technical   errors   or

irregularities  not  affecting  election  results.30    We   have

explained  this  policy noting that "[c]ourts  are  reluctant  to

permit a wholesale disfranchisement of qualified electors through

no  fault  of their own, and `[w]here any reasonable construction

of  [a] statute can be found which will avoid such a result,  the

courts should and will favor it.' "31

           In  light  of  this  policy, plaintiffs  in  Title  15

election  contests  carry  a  heavy  burden.   We  have   defined

"malconduct" under AS 15.20.540 as "a significant deviation  from

statutorily  or  constitutionally prescribed  norms."32   And  as

discussed  previously, to maintain an election contest  under  AS

15.20.540,  plaintiffs must demonstrate an effect on the  outcome

of an election.

             Rigidly   applying   a   forfeiture   sanction   for

inconsequential  violations is inconsistent with the  presumptive

validity  of election results, and the "well-established  policy"

favoring    election   results   in   the   face   of   technical

irregularities.33  Furthermore, applying a forfeiture sanction for

failures  to  strictly comply with disclosure requirements  would

significantly  undermine  the high burdens  we  have  applied  in

election  contests, and the statutorily required  showing  of  an

effect  on  the  outcome of the election.34  A strict  compliance

standard  under  AS  39.50.060(b) would thwart  voter  intent  in

contravention  of  Alaska law.  Substantial  compliance  is  more

consistent with Alaska's election jurisprudence.

          Of course AS 15.20 contains substantive provisions that

are  not  duplicated in AS 39.50.  But it would be  anomalous  to

impose the harsh remedy of forfeiture of elected office under  AS

39.50.060(b) for an inconsequential disclosure omission given the

high causal standard applicable to election contests.

                     5.    A  substantial compliance standard  is
               supported  by  Alaska  Public  Offices  Commission
               regulations.
               
          We also note that APOC regulations support the adoption

of   a  substantial  compliance  standard.   Given  the  lack  of

statutory specificity discussed above, APOC regulations serve  as

a useful interpretive aid.

           APOC's  "[p]rocedures for incomplete  statements  from

candidates for state elective office" specify that the lieutenant

governor may not certify the election of a candidate who "has not

supplied  required  information on  a  major  source  of  income,

interest  in real property, business interest, loan, or trust."35

(Emphasis  added.)   Furthermore, 2  Alaska  Administrative  Code

(AAC) 50.127(d) states that if "information discovered after  the

withdrawal-of-candidacy deadline indicates that a candidate . . .

has  failed to comply substantially with the requirements  of  AS

39.50  .  .  .  the  staff of the commission  shall  undertake  a

preliminary  investigation." (Emphasis added.)  Moreover,  2  AAC

50.110(c)(1)  states that APOC staff may recommend a  ten  dollar

per day fine if the filer "failed to comply substantially with AS

39.50 . . . by failing to report in the filer's statement a major

source  of  income, interest in real property, business interest,

loan,  trust, or other substantial financial interest." (Emphasis

added.)

            Agency  interpretations  are  not  binding   on   our

interpretation  of  a  statute,36 but APOC's regulations  provide

useful guidance here.  In the analogous context of administrative

appeals, when a question of law involves agency expertise we will

"defer  to  [an] agency's interpretation of a law  unless  it  is

unreasonable."37   APOC's  adoption of a  substantial  compliance

standard  implies that APOC has interpreted its enabling  statute

to  require that standard or at least to be consistent with  that

standard.   Further,  it  would  seem  incongruous  to  impose  a

forfeiture  sanction  if  there is  substantial  but  not  strict

compliance, when substantial compliance is the standard APOC  has

adopted  in  deciding  whether to undertake an  investigation  or

impose a civil penalty.

          Moreover, both the regulations and AS 39.50 contemplate

a  graduated  response for disclosure violations.   Under  2  AAC

50.110  the  civil  penalty for incomplete disclosures  increases

after fifteen days of lateness, and the maximum per diem fine  is

available   for  continuous  failures,  or  failures  to   comply

substantially with the disclosure requirements.38  Alaska Statute

39.50.060(a)  provides  criminal  penalties  for  officials   who

"refuse[] or knowingly fail[]" to comply, and sections  .070  and

.080   prevent   confirmation   of   executive   officials    and

commissioners  until  they  comply.   The  opportunity  to   cure

disclosure  defects  in  sections .070  and  .080  for  officials

subject  to  subsection  .060(b), and the criminal  penalties  of

subsection  .060(a), indicate a measured approach  to  disclosure

violations.39  Context implies that forfeiture of office is  only

available  for  more  serious offenses.   Imposing  a  forfeiture

sanction   for   failing   to  strictly  comply   would   produce

disproportionate  results under this enforcement  regime.   Grimm

and McGahan argue that applying a substantial compliance standard

would  "very likely create more, rather than fewer, conflicts  in

the  enforcement of election filing deadlines."  But  applying  a

strict  compliance  standard for the forfeiture  penalty  is  not

consistent  with  the enforcement regime.   We  also  think  that

reserving  the post-election forfeiture penalty for  failures  to

substantially  comply with the disclosure requirements  will  not

unduly burden APOC or the courts in enforcing the disclosure law.

           For  the  reasons  we discuss in Parts  III.E.1-5,  we

conclude  that substantial compliance is the appropriate standard

for imposing the forfeiture remedy of AS 39.50.060(b).

          F.    The Superior Court Did Not Clearly Err in Finding
          that   Wagoner   Substantially   Complied   with    the
Requirements of AS 39.50.
          
           Having determined that substantial compliance  is  the

appropriate  standard  under  AS 39.50.060(b),  we  now  consider

whether  it was error to find that Wagoner substantially complied

with  the  disclosure requirements.  On appeal Grimm and  McGahan

argue   generally  that  the  superior  court  erred  in  finding

Wagoner's   nondisclosures  to  be  trivial;  they   specifically

challenge  some of the superior court's determinations  regarding

particular allegations of nondisclosure.

           Deciding  whether  a candidate substantially  complied

with  AS 39.50 in the context of subsection .060(b) requires both

factual  and legal determinations.  A trial court must  determine

whether  a  candidate  violated the  disclosure  laws,  and  also

whether  any  possible violations rendered  a  candidate  out  of

substantial compliance.  The overarching question is whether  the

disclosures   provided  an  "accurate  representation"   of   the

candidate's finances.

            In  making  this  determination  a  trial  court  may

permissibly  look  to  the opinion of the  administrative  agency

responsible  for enforcing the disclosure law.40  APOC  has  both

administrative  expertise  and the  dedicated  responsibility  of

policing  disclosures  under  AS 39.50.   Whether  APOC  found  a

disclosure  failure,  fined a candidate, or  assessed  a  reduced

penalty,  for  example,  is relevant in analyzing  a  candidate's

compliance with AS 39.50.

                     1.    The  superior court  did  not  err  in
               finding  that  several alleged  failures  did  not
               require disclosure.
               
           Grimm  and  McGahan's complaint alleged  that  Wagoner

failed to disclose eight different interests.  The superior court

found  that  six  of  the  eight  interests  alleged  related  to

interests Wagoner was not required to disclose.

           Counts  I,  V, and VII of the complaint  alleged  that

Wagoner  failed  to disclose interests in Got Fish,  Nuka  Island

Fishing  Charters, and Chisik Island Charters, respectively.   On

appeal  the  plaintiffs argue that the superior  court  erred  in

concluding  that  these  interests  did  not  require  disclosure

because  AS  39.50.030 requires the disclosure  of  all  business

interests, regardless of activity, and because there was business

activity  for  Got  Fish.  The activities alleged  for  Got  Fish

include  obtaining  a  business license and  opening  a  checking

account.

           Following  its  review of Wagoner's disclosures,  APOC

staff  noted  that "[t]he Commission has never required  inactive

businesses  be  reported."  APOC staff  considered  that  Wagoner

obtained  a  business license for Got Fish in order to  obtain  a

checking account, but staff concluded that Got Fish, Nuka  Island

Fishing Charters, and Chisik Island Charters were inactive in the

reporting  year,  and  did  not  require  disclosure.   The  APOC

commissioners agreed, and did not find disclosure violations  for

these three interests.

           At  trial the superior court considered testimony from

Wagoner  and  other  evidence relating to  the  alleged  business

interests.   Relying  in  part  on  APOC's  review  of  Wagoner's

omissions,  the  superior  court determined  that  the  interests

alleged in Counts I, V, and VII did not require disclosure.   The

superior court distinguished between a candidate's obligation  to

disclose  an unprofitable business, and a candidate's permissible

omission  of  a  non-operating  business.   In  light  of  APOC's

determination,  the  superior court did not err  in  ruling  that

these business interests did not require disclosure.

           Count II of plaintiffs' complaint alleged that Wagoner

failed  to  disclose a partnership with the Navarre family.   The

Navarres  and  the Wagoners co-own property in California.   APOC

staff  noted  that  Wagoner reported his fifty percent  ownership

interest  in  the property, and stated that "[t]he law  does  not

require  that  the  filer  name other non-family  owners  of  the

property."   APOC  staff  did not find a  disclosure  failure  in

Wagoner's  omission  of  the  Navarres  as  co-owners,  and   the

commissioners agreed.

           The  superior  court stated that "one might  infer  an

implied  partnership" from the joint ownership,  but  ruled  that

Wagoner's   accurate  reporting  of  his  ownership  status   was

sufficient  under  the  statute.  The superior  court  considered

testimony  from  Wagoner and APOC staff, and  did  not  find  the

existence of a business interest that required disclosure.

           On  appeal  Grimm and McGahan argue that the  "implied

partnership" was an oral partnership agreement under the  Uniform

Partnership Act, that its existence was evidenced by its checking

account,  and  that Wagoner needed to disclose his dealings  with

the Navarre family as a partnership interest.  In light of APOC's

determination,  the  superior court did not err  in  ruling  that

Wagoner  did  not need to report a partnership with  the  Navarre

family.   Wagoner's disclosure of his own financial  interest  in

the  property would reveal any potential conflict that might also

affect  the  interests of the co-owner.  The  plaintiffs  suggest

that disclosing the partnership was necessary to reveal Wagoner's

relationship  to  the Navarre family, and argue  that  "Wagoner's

status  as  a  Republican Moderate would have  been  called  into

question"   because  "[t]he  Navarres  are  historically   strong

democratic  candidates  in the state."   But  AS  39.50.030(b)(4)

requires  the disclosure of interests in real property  owned  by

the  candidate,  the candidate's spouse, spousal  equivalent,  or

child; it does not require the disclosure of non-family co-owners

or political affiliations.

           Count  IV of the complaint alleged that Wagoner failed

to  disclose  his membership in a Kenai fisherman's  cooperative.

APOC  staff  noted  that "[t]he Kenai fisherman's  coop  was  not

founded until June 2002" and "therefore, it was not reportable on

Mr.  Wagoner's  2002  statement."  The APOC commissioners  agreed

with  the  staff  recommendation, and did not find  a  disclosure

violation  for  Wagoner's  omission  of  his  membership  in  the

cooperative.

           The  superior  court concluded that  Wagoner  was  not

required  to  disclose  his cooperative membership,  because  the

evidence  indicated that the cooperative was  not  founded  until

after  the  reporting year.  The plaintiffs do  not  specifically

challenge this ruling on appeal.  Assuming their general argument

encompasses this ruling, we conclude that the superior court  did

not  err  in  ruling that Wagoner did not need  to  disclose  his

membership in the cooperative.  The disclosure law only  requires

reporting of all information from the "preceding calendar year."41

           Count  VIII of the plaintiffs' complaint alleged  that

Wagoner  failed to disclose his interest in a commercial  fishing

business,  a commercial fishing vessel, and Alaska limited  entry

permits.   APOC staff noted that "Wagoner properly  reported  his

sources  of  income from commercial fishing and  .  .  .  is  not

required  to report his fishing vessel or limited entry permits."

The APOC commissioners agreed.

           The  superior court ruled that the facts and  the  law

supported APOC's conclusion that these interests did not  require

disclosure.   The plaintiffs do not specifically  challenge  this

determination on appeal.  They argue instead that  they  did  not

know the name of Wagoner's fishing business when they filed their

first  amended complaint, and sought to amend this count in their

proposed second amended complaint which the court rejected.  They

claim on appeal that Wagoner's fishing business should have  been

disclosed under the name Wagoner Enterprises - an allegation  not

made  in  their first amended complaint.42  Given the  allegation

made in Count VIII, the superior court did not err in determining

that  the  fishing  vessel  and entry  permits  did  not  require

disclosure.

           And  contrary  to Grimm and McGahan's contentions,  we

note that any possible error with respect to Counts I, II, IV, V,

VII,  or VIII would not necessarily constitute reversible  error.

Because  Grimm  and McGahan have not convinced us that  different

legal  conclusions were required, we hold that the superior court

did  not  err in determining that the omissions alleged in  these

counts  did  not require disclosure.  But even if  there  were  a

legal  error  regarding  one of these  omissions,  it  would  not

invalidate   the  court's  findings  of  substantial  compliance.

Considering   the  relative  insignificance  of   these   alleged

violations,  the superior court did not clearly  err  in  finding

that Wagoner substantially complied with AS 39.50 for purposes of

subsection .060(b).

                     2.    The  superior court  did  not  err  in
               finding that Wagoner's disclosure violations  were
               trivial.
               
           Count III of the complaint alleged that Wagoner failed

to disclose that he was president of Vista Del Jacinto Homeowners

Association, a homeowners' association for a condominium he  owns

in California.  Wagoner's initial disclosure statement listed the

condominium  as a real property interest, but the disclosure  law

requires  filers to report if they are officers or  directors  of

non-profit corporations.43  Wagoner failed to list his position in

the homeowners' association, and APOC staff thought that this was

a   violation   of   the  disclosure  requirements.    The   APOC

commissioners agreed.

           Count  VI alleged that Wagoner failed to disclose  his

interest in Wagoner Rental Properties, the company under which he

operates his real estate rental activities.  Wagoner reported the

location  of  properties  managed  under  the  business  and  the

tenants;  he also reported that the properties were a  source  of

income,  but  he  failed to list the name of the  business  as  a

business  interest.  APOC staff concluded that  failing  to  list

Wagoner  Rental  Properties as a business interest  violated  the

disclosure requirements.  The APOC commissioners agreed.

          APOC staff concluded that these two omissions justified

assessing  a  fine,  but recommended that it be  reduced  because

Wagoner  was  an inexperienced filer, because his omissions  were

inadvertent, and because he cooperated fully with APOC  staff  to

correct  his omissions.  The APOC commissioners assessed a  civil

penalty  for  Wagoner's  failures, but reduced  his  penalty  for

reasons specified in the staff recommendation and because Wagoner

listed the location of the properties and sources of income.

           The  superior court considered testimony from  Wagoner

and  other  evidence,  and considered the  omissions  alleged  in

Counts  III  and VI in the context of Wagoner's entire disclosure

statement.   The  court  ruled that the  alleged  omissions  were

violations  of  the disclosure requirements, but that  they  were

"relatively  trivial."  The court found that  "[t]he  disclosures

that   were  made  overlapped  the  areas  missed  and   provided

sufficient   basis  for  interested  voters  to  understand   the

candidate's interests."  The court ruled that the violations  "do

not  justify  application of AS 39.50.060(b)," and  that  Wagoner

substantially  complied  with  AS 39.50  despite  his  disclosure

violations.

           On appeal Grimm and McGahan argue that AS 39.50.060(b)

and  the disclosure requirements should be strictly enforced, but

they do not convince us that the superior court clearly erred  in

finding  that Wagoner substantially complied with the  disclosure

requirements.  In a conclusory fashion Grimm and McGahan  mention

that Wagoner's failures "cannot be characterized as trivial," but

they do not substantiate this proposition.

           Wagoner's violations had little marginal consequence -

i.e.,  complete  disclosure would have  produced  no  significant

marginal benefit for the voting public.  Both failures related to

interests partially disclosed in other portions of his disclosure

statement.   Failing to list the homeowners' association  despite

listing  the relevant property, and failing to disclose the  name

of the rental business despite listing the properties as a source

of  income,  were  immaterial omissions because  the  incremental

disclosure  provided by correctly completing the form would  have

been small.  We also note that the APOC staff recommendation  and

the  APOC  order  reduced Wagoner's fine to a nominal  $150.   In

light of these factors, the superior court did not err in finding

that  Wagoner's  failures were trivial.  It was  accordingly  not

clear  error to rule that Wagoner substantially complied with  AS

39.50 for the purposes of subsection .060(b).

           In conclusion, Grimm and McGahan's suit fails under AS

39.50  because substantial compliance is the appropriate standard

under  AS  39.50.060(b), and because the court  did  not  err  in

finding  that Wagoner substantially complied with the  disclosure

requirements.44  And because the superior court did  not  err  in

holding  that plaintiffs could not prevail under either Title  15

or  Title 39, we need not decide whether the superior court erred

in  applying Title 15 election contest standards to this Title 39

enforcement action.

          G.    The  Superior Court Did Not Err  in  Denying  the
          Motion To File a Second Amended Complaint.
            In  general,  leave  to  amend  pleadings  should  be

liberally granted.45  But  trial courts have discretion to  grant

or  deny leave, and we will reverse a trial court's decision only

if we are left with a definite and firm conviction that the trial

court erred.46            Grimm and McGahan sought leave to file a

second  amended  complaint at the December 23, 2002  argument  on

cross-motions  for summary judgment.  The superior  court  denied

leave  to  amend  for several reasons.  The court considered  the

general preference for allowing liberal amendment, especially  in

early  stages of litigation, but noted that as parties got closer

to  trial  the  policies against amendment carry greater  weight.

The  superior court considered prejudice to the opposing parties,

and  observed that fairness concerns are amplified  if  there  is

little  time  to  prepare for trial.  The court ultimately  ruled

that "[b]ecause of the need to expedite trial and preparation for

election   contest   cases,  and  the  statutory   deadline   for

complaints, the court will allow amendment any time within the 10

days  following  certification  but  not  after."   The  superior

court's ten-day rationale was grounded in its reading of Title 15

election contest standards together with AS 39.50.47

           Grimm  and  McGahan argue on appeal that the  superior

court  abused  its discretion in denying them  leave  to  file  a

second  amended complaint.  They argue that their proposed second

amended   complaint  listed  nondisclosures  newly  revealed   in

discovery,  and that the discovery schedule prevented  plaintiffs

from  alleging these omissions earlier.  Furthermore, they  argue

that  the superior court provided no basis for applying the Title

15  deadline,  that  the  superior court failed  to  balance  the

hardships,  and  that  the superior court made  no  finding  that

amendment would prejudice the defendants.

           We  do not need to consider the superior court's Title

15  rationale  for  the denial; other factors fully  justify  the

denial.   The  superior court based its decision on prejudice  to

the  opposing  party, the late stage of the litigation,  and  the

expedited trial schedule.  We have noted that courts are normally

reluctant to allow amendments after summary judgment motions have

been  filed.48  In this case plaintiffs sought leave to amend  at

oral argument on cross-motions for summary judgment.

           Despite  the recent discovery, the highly  accelerated

schedule  culminating  in  the  expedited  trial  justifies   the

superior court's ruling.  The court made very commendable efforts

in  conducting  the  trial  and resolving  the  case  with  great

dispatch.   A  highly expedited trial schedule was  necessary  to

ensure an opportunity for appellate review before the legislative

session  was to open on January 21.  Refusing to allow  amendment

under  these  circumstances was not  an  abuse  of  the  superior

court's discretion.





























































































          H.     We  Need  Not  Decide  Whether  AS  39.50.060(b)
Includes a Willfulness Requirement.
            The  superior  court  stated  near  the  end  of  its

memorandum  decision  that "[t]he facts do  not  demonstrate  the

knowing filing of an incomplete disclosure statement."  (Emphasis

added.)   On appeal Grimm and McGahan take this sentence  out  of

context,  and suggest that the court erroneously read a  scienter

requirement into AS 39.50.060(b).  Plaintiffs conclude  that  the

court  was  "confus[ed]" about the required mental states,  given

the  court's  earlier conclusion that plaintiffs  demonstrated  a

"reckless violation."

           It  does not appear that the superior court's analysis

of  the merits depended on a requirement that plaintiffs prove  a

"knowing"  violation.   But even if the reference  revealed  some

analytical  error,  it  only  could have  affected  the  "corrupt

practice"  issue relevant to a Title 15 challenge.   Because  the

court had an independent reason for dismissing plaintiffs' action

as a Title 15 election contest - the plaintiffs' failure to prove

an  effect  on  the outcome of the election - any possible  error

regarding  mental state is harmless.  And there is no  reason  to

think Wagoner's mental state had anything to do with the superior

court's  conclusion that Wagoner substantially complied with  the

disclosure requirements of AS 39.50.

IV.  CONCLUSION

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

          We therefore AFFIRM the judgment of the superior court.49

_______________________________
1    Formerly the Alaska Conflict of Interest Law.  See Former AS
39.50 (1998).
2     A Title 15 election contest may be brought by "[a] defeated
candidate or 10 qualified voters."  AS 15.20.540.
3     Section  3 of the 1974 Initiative Proposal No. 2  provides:
"In case of conflict between provisions of this chapter and other
provisions  contained in the Alaska statutes, the  provisions  of
this  chapter shall take precedence." (The published  version  of
the proposal replaced "Act" with "chapter.")
4     Plaintiffs  filed  an  emergency motion  to  convert  their
petition  for  review (Supreme Court Case No.  S-10924)  into  an
appeal.   We  denied the motion as moot because they had  already
filed  a  direct  appeal (Supreme Court Case  No.  S-10953).   We
treated  plaintiffs'  motion for expedited consideration  of  the
petition  as having been filed in the direct appeal, and  set  an
accelerated  briefing  schedule for the appeal.   We  denied  the
plaintiffs' petition January 14, 2003.
5      McConkey  v.  Hart,  930  P.2d  402,  404  (Alaska   1997)
("Questions  of  the  application and  constitutionality  of  [a]
statute  .  .  .  are questions of law subject  to  this  court's
independent judgment."); Todd v. State, 917 P.2d 674, 677 (Alaska
1996)  (explaining  that  "questions of  constitutional  law  and
statutory  interpretation"  call  for  the  application  of   our
"independent judgment").
6    Native Vill. of Elim v. State, 990 P.2d 1, 5 (Alaska 1999).
7    Guttchen v. Gabriel, 49 P.3d 223, 225 (Alaska 2002).
8     Dansereau  v.  Ulmer,  903  P.2d  555,  559  (Alaska  1995)
(citation  omitted) (quoting Turkington v. City of Kachemak,  380
P.2d 593, 595 (Alaska 1963)).
9    Walden v. Dep't of Transp., 27 P.3d 297, 301 (Alaska 2001).
10     Alaska  Travel Specialists, Inc. v. First  Nat'l  Bank  of
Anchorage, 919 P.2d 759, 762 (Alaska 1996).
11     AS  39.50  does  not  define  "elected  official"  in  its
definitions  section  -  AS  39.50.200  -  but  we  hold  that  a
successful legislative candidate is an "elected official" as that
term is used in AS 39.50.060(b).
12    Alaska Const. art. II,  12.
13    AS 39.50.060(b) (emphasis added).
14    See generally AS 39.50.030.  Thus, AS 39.50.030(b)(1) states
that disclosure statements "must include . . . the source of  all
income  over  $1,000 during the preceding calendar year"  and  AS
39.50.030(b)(3)   states   that   disclosure   statements   "must
include  . . . the identity and nature of each interest owned  in
any business."  (Emphasis added.)
15     We compare in Part III.E.2 the mandatory and comprehensive
language  of  AS 39.50.030(b) with the requirement in  subsection
.030(a)   that   each  disclosure  statement  be   an   "accurate
representation of the financial affairs of the . . . candidate."
16    Silides v. Thomas, 559 P.2d 80 (Alaska 1977).
17    Falke v. State, 717 P.2d 369 (Alaska 1986).
18    State, Alaska Pub. Offices Comm'n v. Marshall, 633 P.2d 227
(Alaska 1981).
19     Falke, 717 P.2d at 373 (disqualifying conflict-of-interest
statement  filed  ten minutes late because "election  law  filing
deadlines are to be strictly enforced"); Silides, 559 P.2d at 86-
87   (applying  substantial  compliance  standard  to   financial
disclosure statement where statutory requirements were  ambiguous
and  strict  compliance impossible for candidate in  Juneau,  but
applying  strict  compliance to filing appointment  of  treasurer
notification because "statutory candidate election deadlines  are
normally strictly enforced").
20      Marshall,  633  P.2d  at  235-37  (holding  that   filing
preelection report long after election could not be characterized
as trivial so as to avoid application of forfeiture sanction).
21    Id. at 235 ("[T]hus we need not resolve at this time whether
a  `trivial'  violation  can  preclude  applying  the  forfeiture
sanction.").
22    See supra note 14.
23    Marshall, 633 P.2d at 235.
24    AS 39.50.100 permits "[a] qualified Alaska voter [to] bring
a  civil  action to enforce any of the sections of this chapter."
AS  39.50.060(b) provides a penalty for "[a]ny person failing  or
refusing to comply with the requirements of [the] chapter."   The
disclosure requirements of AS 39.50 are set out in section .030.
25    AS 39.50.030(a) (emphasis added).
26    Webster's II New College Dictionary 8 (1995).
27    Id. at 941.
28    See AS 39.50.010(a)(3).
29     See,  e.g., Dansereau v. Ulmer, 903 P.2d 555, 559  (Alaska
1995) (quoting Turkington v. City of Kachemak, 380 P.2d 593,  595
(Alaska 1963)).
30    Carr v. Thomas, 586 P.2d 622, 625-26 (Alaska 1978).
31     Id.  at 626 (quoting Reese v. Dempsey, 153 P.2d  127,  132
(N.M. 1944)).
32    Hammond v. Hickel, 588 P.2d 256, 258 (Alaska 1978) (relying
on Boucher v. Bomhoff, 495 P.2d 77, 80 (Alaska 1972)).
33    See Dansereau, 903 P.2d at 559; Carr, 586 P.2d at 626.
34    See Hammond, 588 P.2d at 258; AS 15.20.540.
35    2 Alaska Administrative Code (AAC) 50.127(c) (2003).
36    Storrs v. State Med. Bd., 664 P.2d 547, 552 (Alaska 1983).
37    Lopez v. Adm'r, Pub. Employees' Ret. Sys., 20 P.3d 568, 570
(Alaska  2001).  See also Storrs, 664 P.2d at 552 ("[A] statutory
construction  adopted by those responsible  for  administering  a
statute  should  not  be  overruled in the  absence  of  `weighty
reasons.'  "  (quoting  Kelly v. Zamarello,  486  P.2d  906,  910
(Alaska  1971)));  Sanford v. State, 24 P.3d 1263,  1266  (Alaska
App. 2001) (looking to administrative agency's interpretation  of
statute in attempting to resolve ambiguity in statute).
38    2 AAC 50.110 (2003).
39    See AS 39.50.060, .070, .080.
40     2B  Norman  J.  Singer, Sutherland Statutory  Construction
49:03 (6th ed. 2000) ("[P]ractical interpretation of a statute by
the   .  .  .  officers  charged  with  its  administration   and
enforcement  .  . . constitutes an invaluable aid in  determining
the meaning of a doubtful statute.").  See also cases cited supra
note 37.
41     AS  39.50.030(b)(1)-(8).  The disclosure statement Wagoner
completed  called for the disclosure of business  interests  held
"between  January  1,  2001 and December  31,  2001,"  and  other
interests for "calendar year 2001."
42    Because allegations relating to Wagoner Enterprises were not
included in the complaint the court considered, we do not address
the  legal  status  of Wagoner's disclosures  for  this  business
interest.   We  consider the superior court's  refusal  to  grant
leave  to  amend plaintiffs' complaint below in Part  III.G.   We
note,  however, that Wagoner Enterprises is listed  on  Wagoner's
initial disclosure statement as a source of income.  Any possible
failure  with  respect to Wagoner Enterprises was  very  probably
inconsequential; there would have been little or  no  incremental
benefit  of  listing Wagoner Enterprises as a business  interest,
because it was listed as a source of income.
43    AS 39.50.030(b)(2).
44     Grimm and McGahan also argue that the superior court erred
in   finding   that  Wagoner  was  "forthcoming"   in   providing
information  to APOC.  This was a permissible finding  given  the
superior court's opportunity to assess Wagoner's credibility  and
its  permissible reliance on APOC's analysis.  But to the  extent
the  superior court found that Wagoner voluntarily disclosed  his
financial interests, that finding was immaterial to the  superior
court's ruling on substantial compliance.
45    O'Callaghan v. Rue, 996 P.2d 88, 100 (Alaska 2000); see also
Alaska  R. Civ. P. 15(a) (noting that "leave [to amend pleadings]
shall be freely given when justice so requires").
46    O'Callaghan, 996 P.2d at 100.
47    AS 15.20.550 states that an election contest "may be brought
in  the superior court within 10 days after the completion of the
state review."
48     O'Callaghan, 996 P.2d at 101; Jennings v. State, 566  P.2d
1304, 1312 (Alaska 1977).
49    Our holding also makes it unnecessary to consider Wagoner's
argument  that  applying a forfeiture sanction  to  non-incumbent
candidates  would  result in an equal protection  violation.   We
observe  that although Wagoner asserts on appeal that  "Title  24
does  not  include  a  forfeiture  penalty  for  omissions,"   AS
24.60.250 includes forfeiture language similar to that  found  in
AS 39.50.060(b).