Friday, August 15, 2008

Palin says, "calls were not pressure". Huh?

Anchorage Daily News

As an investigator hired by the Legislature began looking into the firing of the state's former top cop, Gov. Sarah Palin was defiant Thursday.

A damning phone call from one of her staffers doesn't prove Palin's team was trying to get former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan to fire her ex-brother-in-law, Palin said in a telephone interview.

And if Monegan felt pressured to ax the trooper, he would have said so, she added. "I'm sure Monegan would have come to me and said, 'Call off the dogs, I'm feeling pressure.' "

Whether the governor, family members or staff members squeezed Monegan to fire the trooper, Mike Wooten, who was battling Palin's sister in an emotional divorce, has become a political fireball in the two-year-old Palin administration.

Monegan said Thursday that he never specifically told Palin he was feeling pressed -- he didn't think he had to say it, he said -- but that he would sigh every time he heard complaints originating from the governor's office about the trooper.

To everybody "that I had an opportunity to speak to, I basically told them that DPS will handle it," Monegan said.

If you've been asleep all week, here's the recap: Wooten was locked in a custody battle with Palin's sister. Palin fired Monegan in July, saying she wanted to move the department in a different direction.

Monegan has said he felt pressured to get rid of Wooten, and now the Legislature has hired an investigator to find out if there was anything fishy about his dismissal by the governor. Palin says Wooten had nothing to do with it.

The Department of Law began its own investigation first, at Palin's request.

On Wednesday, Palin released a recording of a phone call between one of her directors, Frank Bailey, and a trooper lieutenant outlining various complaints against Wooten -- from drunken driving to lying on an application -- saying the governor and her husband wondered why the trooper still had a job.

Palin says she never asked Bailey to make the call, which she called "just wrong." But she argued Thursday that it doesn't mean her administration pressured Monegan.

"If that's pressure, then (after) years in law enforcement, how do they do their job if that's perceived as pressure?" she said.

Palin has said her staff made at least 20 calls to the Department of Public Safety regarding Wooten -- often asking about the process of investigating or disciplining a trooper.

Monegan said the issue kept re-appearing like a bad penny.

"We don't ignore complaints, but if it's the same one with no new evidence ... then I have to tell people that there's nothing new here," he said.

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