Sarah Palin -Investigated for Abuse of Power
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
New Investigation -Not a Clear and Transparent Government
Gov. Sarah Palin is facing yet another lawsuit accusing her of running an opaque government. This time, her relationship to the mining industry is in question.
Alaskans for Clean Water are suing Palin and various state departments, including the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), for allegedly backing the mining industry - most notably, the controversial Pebble Mine project - by misleading voters about Ballot Measure Four, the so-called Clean Water Initiative which was defeated during
Brian Kraft, a business owner with no ties to Alaskans for Clean Water, is suing the governor's office for access to public records. Wednesday, September 22, 2008. the primary elections. The group is also accusing the governor and her administration of stonewalling public access to public records that could potentially prove whether Palin favored a special interest group.
It all began in August with Brian Kraft, who owns two businesses in Bristol Bay. He supported the ballot measure, which he says DNR helped to defeat with a website just a week before the primaries. Kraft filed a complaint with the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC).
"I thought it was biased, misleading and APOC ruled in our favor," said Kraft, who is not a member of Alaskans for Clean Water. "APOC had an expedited hearing. They viewed the evidence and in that evidence part of it was Gov. Palin's comments of 'I'm taking my hat off and, personally, I'm voting 'no' on ballot measure four."
That evidence - in the form of emails - is what Alaskans for Clean water requested through the public records act. Nearly two months later, they still don't have the records and are now suing for access.
"I'd like to know what those emails were back and forth between the administration, the DNR and the mining industry," said Kraft. "I think as a resident of the state of Alaska, we have a right to those."
office says all public records requests have been backlogged
"We're trying to comply with all the public records requests we've gotten," said Bill McAllister, Palin's spokesman. "We've got more than 80 ongoing public records requests right now, not including the ones we've already resolved. What this group has to understand is we're trying to answer inquiries from all over the country that have piled up in a very short time frame."
McAllister says the state is even "pulling lawyers off of other duties to do work they don't normally do to go through and see which of these records can be legally disclosed."
As for the clean water initiative, APOC ordered the state to take down the website but Kraft said the damage had already been done.
"I think it heavily influenced the way people voted, in that people felt secure that the State of Alaska had the rigorous permitting process that the State of Alaska likes to claim," Kraft said.
"I'm not trying to get the governor in trouble," Kraft added. "I'm not trying to make this a political issue. All I want is the truth to be found out."
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Second abuse-of-power investigation into Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's
Confidential records will be shared in new Palin probe
UNANIMOUS: Panel gives independent counsel access.
A legislative panel agreed Thursday to share confidential personnel records with the lawyer who is leading a second abuse-of-power investigation into Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's firing of her public safety commissioner. The Legislative Council voted unanimously to provide the confidential documents to the Personnel Board's independent counsel, Tim Petumenos, who is investigating Palin's firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan.
Petumenos did not attend the brief session in Anchorage on Thursday and did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
Last week, an investigator for the Legislative Council found that Palin was within her right to fire Monegan but had violated ethics laws by trying to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired.
The probe began before Palin became the GOP vice presidential nominee, but it has taken on broader political implications since then.
Palin originally agreed to cooperate with the Legislature's investigation. But after becoming John McCain's running mate, she said the probe had become too partisan and filed a complaint against herself with the Personnel Board, saying it has the proper authority to investigate ethics allegations against the governor.
Democratic state Sen. Kim Elton, chairman of the Legislative Council, said it was important to share the confidential information to ensure that critical data was not segregated. The council published its findings last week but not the confidential matter.
"I can't speak to whether it will speed up Mr. Petumenos' investigation," Elton said. "I do have to believe that the public component of the report contains most of the information that is pertinent, but conclusions that were drawn in volume one -- the public component -- are backed up by some of the material that has to remain confidential by law."
Under the agreement, neither Petumenos nor the Personnel Board are allowed to reveal contents of the confidential documents without approval from the Legislative Council. That last-minute condition bothered Republican state Rep. Bill Stoltze, who participated by teleconference but didn't vote.
"I just thought we shouldn't put another restriction of confidentiality on this thing," Stoltze told The Associated Press after the meeting. "I thought it was unnecessary and it put out the perception that we're trying to create yet another barrier to public access."
A report by Stephen Branchflower, the council's investigator, concluded that Palin unlawfully abused her power by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired, but it was largely toothless. State lawmakers have no authority to sanction Palin for ethical misconduct. That's up to the three-member Personnel Board, which is appointed by the governor.
Two members are holdovers from the previous governor and Palin reappointed the third.
Members of the board can be fired by the governor for cause.
A costly personal, vindictive Palin vendetta? You betcha
Let's ignore all of the emails, phone calls and sworn testimony from current employees of Governor Palin that show a bizarre obsession with getting the governor's ex brother in law fired. Lets for a minute ignore all of the evidence and assume that "Troopergate" is much to do about nothing.
Let's assume that the governor and her husband are being honest in their explanation that they were simply protecting their family and the public from a rogue trooper. Let's assume that the governor's public explanation of the phone calls to former Commissioner Walt Monegan from her, her husband and her staff were about honest outrage at a system that allows a dangerous trooper to continue carrying a badge and gun on Alaska's streets.
However, if the risk presented by Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten was so grave, why didn't Gov. Palin do anything to protect Alaskans by letting them know? After all, if this story hadn't become public as a result of Monegan getting unceremoniously fired, not one Alaskan would have been been the wiser about this supposed rogue trooper.
For the better part of thirteen months Gov. Palin, her husband and a handful of her senior staff tried to get Wooten fired through legally impermissible means. Why didn't the governor or her staff spend that time crafting a beneficial public policy that would have protected the public against this trooper as well as future rogue troopers?
If the governor, her husband and her senior staff were truly concerned about their safety or the publics safety, why didn't they propose legislation to change the way the state troopers investigate themselves?
In hindsight, it's hard to understand that after a year of relentlessly pursuing Wooten, while claiming his punishment was a "slap on the wrist" they never once considered speaking about this situation in public. This past session there were over two dozen pieces of public safety legislation where the governor could have had a public platform to inform the public of her concerns, work with lawmakers to propose solutions and change state laws not just for Wooten but for future cases of accused trooper misconduct.
Rep. Bob Roses introduced House Bill 193 that reformed the Police Standards Council. Sen. Donny Olson introduced Senate Bill 45, dealing with punishment of peace officers. Both were passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Palin without one single public word about any fears or concerns she had about Wooten or the troopers.
The governor failed to propose new legislation, offer any amendments to existing legislation or even try to negotiate changes to the state troopers' new collective bargaining agreement. These facts raise questions about just how much of this pursuit of Trooper Wooten was fear and how much was vendetta.
According to the Branchflower report, Gary Wheeler, a member of the governor's personal security detail since her election, testified under oath that Governor Palin never said she was afraid for her safety concerning Michael Wooten.
With a second investigation now under way which will yield the same evidence, the governor finds herself, her husband, as well as the state, at risk for legal damages. Ironically, it was Commissioner Walt Monegan and his Deputy Commissioner John Glass who both warned the administration early on about the liability with their obsession.
Because Trooper Wooten had already been investigated and disciplined for the conduct raised by the governor and her husband, in the absence of new information or new allegations, re-disciplining him for the same conduct was illegal. Firing him, or in this case trying to get him fired for the conduct for which he had already been disciplined under the Murkowski administration, would almost certainly guarantee that Trooper Wooten would sue the state and that he would likely prevail.
Monegan even warned Chief of Staff Mike Tibbles back in the spring of 2007, "Do you want Trooper Wooten to own your house?"
A misguided and costly personal vendetta? You betcha.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Monegan will have an on going adjustment to his reputation...Palin spokesman said
by Jason Moore and Rebecca Palsha
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan filed papers with the Personnel Board Tuesday requesting it hold a hearing to address what he calls damage to his reputation.
The request includes Monegan's side of the story and responds to the governor's claims he was insubordinate and had a rogue mentality.
Monegan's attorney wrote: "Governor Palin's public statements accusing Mr. Monegan of serious misconduct were untrue and they have stigmatized his good name, severely damaged -- and continue to damage -- his reputation and impaired his ability to pursue future professional employment."
Monegan said the Legislature's investigation shows the real reason he was fired -- because he wouldn't take action against Trooper Mike Wooten, the governor's former brother in law.
"It's never been my issue ... that she couldn't fire me, because she could for any or no reason at all," Monegan said in a phone interview. "It was the reason why she fired me that I would just like to have known so I could move on with life and figure what to do, or what not to do in the future.
"I think everybody should be entitled to that, and now i have a clear understanding."
But Monegan still wants a finding from the Personnel Board that the governor's claims he had a rogue mentality and displayed outright insubordination were wrong.
Palin's attorney, Tom van Flein, has a different take on it.
"Everything that has come out has come out because of allegations that he has made," van Flein said. "And this is something he should have thought about before he went and accused the governor of wrongdoing."
Van Flein said the governor at first tried to shield Monegan.
"When the governor reassigned him, she made a public statement that was vague -- deliberately vague," van Flein said. "It's often done that way so you don't have to disclose to the world why you were having a problem with an employee.
"He was the one who insisted that those facts come out. The facts came out, he does not like those facts, but that's not defamation."
Meanwhile, the Personnel Board investigator looking into those issues is reportedly expanding the investigation to include other ethics complaints against the governor and other state officials.
That's according to letters from investigator Tim Petumenos to lawyer Meg Simonian, who threatened a lawsuit to make the governor's portion of the investigation public because the governor waived confidentiality.
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to go to court and ask a judge to make sure that the investigation related to the governor is separated out from her employees who don't want to waive confidentiality and that any deliberations of the Personnel Board or recommendations made by Mr. Petumenos as they relate to the governor are open," Simonian said.
Van Flein said the governor and her husband will meet with Petumenos next week, likely in the Lower 48 on the campaign trail.
While the Legislature's investigation is over, it appears there are more chapters yet to write in what we have come to know as Troopergate.
Monegan files complaint
Also on KTUU.COM
With investigation finished, what's next?
Palin claims contradict report conclusions
Branchflower: Palin abused power
Palin says report clears her
Monday, October 13, 2008
'Very much appreciating being cleared of any legal wrongdoing or unethical activity at all
Palin: 'Very much appreciating being cleared of any legal wrongdoing or unethical activity at all' (Updated with audio)
Posted by Alaska_Politics
Posted: October 11, 2008 - 4:28 pm
Comments (339) | Recommend (39)
From Lisa Demer in Anchorage --
Gov. Sarah Palin took about 5 minutes and 30 seconds Saturday afternoon to talk by phone with Alaska reporters and give her view of the Troopergate investigation. She called the case “Tasergate,” a reference to an earlier finding from a trooper investigation that her former brother-in-law used a Taser on his stepson.
Meghan Stapleton, a campaign spokeswoman, opened the conference call and limited questions to one from each reporter. On the line: the ADN, KTVA-Channel 11 and KTUU-Channel 2. Palin could apparently hear us only when an operator turned on our individual lines (which probably explains why there was no response to my follow-up question).
Listen to the interview here:
Here's a transcript:
Palin: Hey, thank you so, Meg. Thank you so much. Thank you also to our local reporters up there in Alaska. Even hearing your names make me feel like I’m right there with you at home. It’s good to get to speak with you. Let me talk a little bit about the Tasergate issue if you guys would let me and, Meg, you want me to just jump right on in there?
Stapleton: Sure governor, go ahead.
Palin: OK cool.
Well, I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing … any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that. Todd did what anyone would have done given this state trooper’s very, very troubling behavior and his dangerous threats against our family. Todd did what I think any Alaskan would do.
And he, Todd did what the state’s Department of Law Web site tells anyone to do if they have a concern about a state trooper. And that’s you go to the commissioner and you express your concern. And Todd did what our personal detail asked him to do. Bob Cockrell early on as I was elected and was asked are there any threats against you, and Todd brought the concern as I did to Commissioner Monegan about the state trooper’s threats. He did what any – I think -- any rational person would do so again, nothing to apologize there with Todd’s actions and again very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing.
(Stapleton invites the first question).
ADN: Governor, finding No.1 on the report was that you abused your power by violating state law. Do you think you did anything wrong at all in this Troopergate case?
Palin: Not at all and I’ll tell you, it, I think that you’re always going to ruffle feathers as you do what you believe is in the best interest of the people whom you are serving. In this case I knew that I had to have the right people in the right position at the right time in this cabinet to best serve Alaskans, and Walt Monegan was not the right person at the right time to meet the goals that we had set out in our administration. So no, not having done anything wrong, and again very much appreciating being cleared of any legal wrongdoing or unethical activity at all.
ADN: Have you read the whole report? (No response; Stapleton invites question from KTVA reporter).
KTVA-Channel 11: … The report that came out yesterday, do you think that the end result is partisan?
Palin: Yeah, I did think it did turn into a partisan circus to tell you the truth. Yes I did. You know from Day One it’s been the Personnel Board that clearly laid out in state statute there -- Personnel Board deals with any issue of question regarding a governor, a lieutenant governor or an attorney general in the state of Alaska. What this legislative investigation -- quote unquote -- turned into was a political circus.
KTUU-Channel 2: Governor, so good to hear from you. Do you approve of the way that your campaign has handled themselves here in Alaska? We’ve had a lot of people voice concerns about what they call attacks of good people in our state while you are away.
Palin: Well I haven’t heard of any attacks on good people in Alaska from our campaign. If you have specifics there, maybe I could answer specifically. But no, in John McCain’s mission here, in taking the high road, as you’re going to see too with a lot of unfair shots he has taken in this campaign with some of his opponents’ supporters, McCain and I taking the high road, being positive. I wouldn’t support nor would I condone taking shots at any good Alaskans.
KTUU-Channel 2: Let me answer your question since you asked for specifics.
KTUU-Channel 2: Walt Monegan was called “rogue.” How do you feel about that?
Palin: Rogue isn’t a negative term when you consider that in a cabinet you need a team effort going forward with a governor’s agenda. And our agenda has been to find efficiencies in every department and make sure that we are serving the people of Alaska to the best of our ability given the resources that we have. And remember I fought very hard to increase funding for state troopers so that we could fill positions there and goals not being met that included not being able to recruit and retain all the state troopers that I wanted to best serve Alaska. That could be characterized I think as a cabinet member who – it’s not a negative term I think -- being rogue in terms of not meeting those goals.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Palin guilty of 'Abuse Power'
A long-awaited Alaska legislative report concluded that Republican Sen. John McCain's vice-presidential running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, abused her authority and broke state ethics law by trying to remove her former brother-in-law from his job as a state trooper.
But the report also concluded that the Republican governor did not unlawfully fire her public-safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, who said he had been pressured to oust the trooper, Mike Wooten. The report said other factors were involved in Mr. Monegan's controversial dismissal.
Sen. John McCain speaks as Republican vice-presidential candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin listens during a town hall meeting in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
The report, by investigator Stephen Branchflower, was a potential setback to Sen. McCain's lagging presidential campaign. It was released late Friday in Anchorage by the state legislative panel that commissioned it. The bipartisan panel, with two members absent, voted 12-0 to release the findings to the public.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
This piece of work thinks she can clear self of all wrongdoing
Palin pre-empts state report, clears self
Alaska lawmakers expected to release ethics probe findings Friday
The Associated Press
updated 6:55 p.m. AKT, Thurs., Oct. 9, 2008
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Trying to head off a potentially embarrassing state ethics report on GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, campaign officials released their own report Thursday that clears her of any wrongdoing.
Sen. John McCain's running mate is the subject of a legislative investigation into whether she abused her power as governor by firing her public safety commissioner. The commissioner, Walter Monegan, says he was dismissed in July for resisting pressure from Palin's husband, Todd Palin, and numerous top aides to fire state trooper Mike Wooten, Palin's former brother-in-law.
The move came hours after the state Supreme Court refused to halt the ethics investigation.
Lawmakers were expected to release their own findings Friday. Campaign officials have yet to see that report — the result of an investigation that began before she was tapped as McCain's running mate — but said the investigation has falsely portrayed a legitimate policy dispute between a governor and her commissioner as something inappropriate.
"The following document will prove Walt Monegan's dismissal was a result of his insubordination and budgetary clashes with Governor Palin and her administration," campaign officials wrote. "Trooper Wooten is a separate issue."
Monegan said Thursday that he doesn't know what to expect from the legislative panel's own report.
"I just hope that the truth is figured out," Monegan told The Associated Press on Thursday. "That the governor did want me to fire him, and I chose to not. You just can't walk up to someone and say, 'I fire you.' He didn't do anything under my watch to result in termination."
Palin's critics say that shows she used her office to settle family affairs.
"When you're the governor, you leave your household hat at home and you become governor," said state Senate President Lyda Green, a Republican who has frequently clashed with Palin.
Campaign blames former opponent
The campaign's report instead blames former campaign opponent, Andrew Halcro, who has a blog, of conspiring with Wooten to pin Monegan's dismissal on the family's dispute with Wooten. Three days after Monegan was fired, they say, Wooten told his ex-wife, Palin's sister, that: "You guys are going down. Get ready for the show."
Two days after that confrontation, they say, Halcro and Wooten met at a hotel bar in Anchorage for more than three hours — and that evening, Halcro posted the first accusations on his blog that Monegan had been fired because of a vendetta against Wooten by the Palin family.
"It is tragic that a false story hatched by a blogger after drinks with Trooper Wooten led the legislature to allocate over $100,000 of public money to be spent in what has become a politically driven investigation," the 21-page report concludes.
Although the report describes Wooten as a separate issue, the McCain campaign goes into great detail about the "rogue" trooper and his "long history of unstable and erratic behavior." The campaign describes allegations of violence, including threatening Palin's family and shooting his stepson with a stun gun.
The report also includes allegations that Wooten cheated the workers' compensation system. Todd Palin has said he had numerous conversations with government officials about why Wooten was allowed to stay on the job.
"The Palins make no apologies for wanting to protect their family and wanting to bring attention to the injustice of a violent trooper keeping his badge and abusing the workers' compensation system."
But Todd Palin said he never pressured anyone, including his wife.
The McCain campaign says the investigation has become "muddied with innuendo, rumor and partisan politics."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Sarah is guilty of Abuse of Power
Palins Repeatedly Pressed Case Against Trooper
By SERGE F. KOVALESKI
ANCHORAGE — The 2007 state fair was days away when Alaska’s public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, took another call about one of his troopers, Michael Wooten. This time, the director of Gov. Sarah Palin’s Anchorage office was on the line.
As Mr. Monegan recalls it, the aide said the governor had heard that TrooperWooten was assigned to work the kickoff to the fair in late August. If so, Mr. Monegan should do something about it, because Ms. Palin was also planning to attend and did not want him nearby.
Somewhat bewildered, Mr. Monegan soon determined that Trooper Wooten had indeed volunteered for duty at the fairgrounds — in full costume as “Safety Bear,” the troopers’ child-friendly mascot.
Two years earlier, the trooper and the governor’s sister had been embroiled in a nasty divorce and child-custody battle that had hardened the Palin family against him. To Mr. Monegan and several top aides, the state fair episode was yet another example of a fixation that the governor and her husband, Todd, had with Trooper Wooten and the most granular details of his life.
“I thought to myself, ‘Man, do they have a heavy-duty network and focus on this guy,’ ” Mr. Monegan said. “You’d call that an obsession.”
On July 11, Ms. Palin fired Mr. Monegan, setting off a politically charged scandal that has become vastly more so since Ms. Palin became the Republican vice-presidential nominee.
By now, the outlines of the matter have been widely reported. Mr. Monegan believes he was ousted because he would not bow to pressure to dismiss Trooper Wooten. The Alaska Legislature is investigating the firing and whether the governor abused the powers of her office to pursue a personal vendetta. Its report is due Friday.
Ms. Palin has denied that anyone told Mr. Monegan to dismiss Trooper Wooten, or that the commissioner’s ouster had anything to do with him. But an examination of the case, based on interviews with Mr. Monegan and several top aides, indicates that, to a far greater degree than was previously known, the governor, her husband and her administration pressed the commissioner and his staff to get Trooper Wooten off the force, though without directly ordering it.
In all, the commissioner and his aides were contacted about Trooper Wooten three dozen times over 19 months by the governor, her husband and seven administration officials, interviews and documents show.
“To all of us, it was a campaign to get rid of him as a trooper and, at the very least, to smear the guy and give him a desk job somewhere,” said Kim Peterson, Mr. Monegan’s special assistant, who like several other aides spoke publicly about the matter for the first time.
Ms. Peterson, a 31-year veteran of state government who retired 10 days before Mr. Monegan’s firing, said she received about a dozen calls herself. “It was very clear that someone from the governor’s office wanted him watched,” she said.
Nor did that interest end with Mr. Monegan, the examination shows. His successor, Chuck Kopp, recalled that in an exploratory phone call and then a job interview, Ms. Palin’s aides mentioned the governor’s concerns about Trooper Wooten. None of the 280 other troopers were discussed, Mr. Kopp said.
Immediately after Mr. Monegan’s firing, Ms. Palin said her intent was to change the department’s direction. (She declined to be interviewed for this article.) She has since offered a variety of explanations for his ouster, most recently accusing him of insubordination and opposing her fiscal reforms.
As evidence, she has contended, among other things, that Mr. Monegan arranged two unauthorized lobbying trips to Washington. But according to interviews and records obtained by The New York Times, the governor’s office authorized both trips.
As for Trooper Wooten, Ms. Palin has said she and others were simply lodging legitimate complaints to the appropriate authorities about a trooper with a disciplinary record who was a danger to her family and to the public. In one instance, she said he made a death threat against her father in 2005, an accusation that the trooper has denied.
Ms. Palin initially said she welcomed an investigation into Mr. Monegan’s ouster. But she has since declined to cooperate with the bipartisan inquiry, which Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign says has been “hijacked” by Democratic lawmakers. Ms. Palin has pledged to cooperate with a separate inquiry, by the state’s Personnel Board.
Beyond the potential political consequences, the Legislature’s inquiry, depending on its outcome, could lead lawmakers to censure Ms. Palin or pass legislation making it more difficult for a governor to remove a commissioner, legislative leaders said.
Watching the Trooper
The Palin family’s dispute with Trooper Wooten surfaced long before Ms. Palin became governor.
On April 11, 2005, the day Ms. Palin’s sister, Molly McCann, filed for divorce, her father, Chuck Heath, informed the state police that a domestic-violence restraining order had been served on his son-in-law. Mr. Heath later told the state police that, although Trooper Wooten had not physically harmed Ms. McCann, he had intimidated her. Ms. McCann told the authorities that Trooper Wooten said to her that he would shoot Mr. Heath if he hired her a divorce lawyer and would “take down” Ms. Palin if she got involved.
The family also reported that Trooper Wooten, who was assigned to the wildlife investigations unit, shot a cow, or female, moose without a permit, used a Taser on his 10-year-old stepson and drank a beer at a friend’s barbecue before taking a second one for the drive home in his patrol car.
In March 2006, after an internal inquiry, Trooper Wooten received a 10-day suspension, which was eventually halved. The suspension letter mentions nothing about threats. At the time, Trooper Wooten and Ms. McCann had been divorced for about two months. But their relationship remained tumultuous, primarily over child custody disputes, said Ms. McCann’s divorce lawyer, Roberta Erwin.
Ms. McCann “wanted to know what relief was available to her” without spending the money to return to court, the lawyer said, adding, “As a close family, the Palins did their best to help her by reaching out further to the trooper hierarchy, with Todd taking the lead.”
On Jan. 4, 2007, a month into the Palin administration and his tenure as public safety commissioner, Mr. Monegan went to the governor’s Anchorage office to talk with Todd Palin, who had requested the meeting. Mr. Palin was seated at a conference table with three stacks of personnel files. That, Mr. Monegan recalled, was the first time he heard the name Mike Wooten.
“He conveyed to me,” Mr. Monegan said, “that he and Sarah did not think the investigation into Wooten had been done well enough and that they were not happy with the punishment. Todd was clearly frustrated.”
Mr. Palin noted Trooper Wooten’s divorce case but dwelt on the moose kill, even showing photographs of the dead animal, Mr. Monegan recalled. The commissioner said he would have his staff evaluate the evidence.
A few days later, Mr. Monegan informed Mr. Palin that the issues raised at the meeting had been addressed in the suspension. The case was closed.
Mr. Palin sounded vexed and said repeatedly Trooper Wooten was getting away with a crime, Mr. Monegan said. “I hung up wondering how long I could keep my job if I tick off my boss’s husband.”
Several evenings later, Mr. Monegan’s cellphone rang. “Walt, it’s Sarah,” the governor said before echoing much of what her husband had said. Trooper Wooten, he recalls being told, was “not the kind of person we should want as a trooper.” He told the governor, too, that there was no new evidence to pursue.
Soon after that, Mr. Palin and several aides began pressing the public safety agency to investigate another matter: whether Trooper Wooten was fraudulently collecting workers’ compensation for a back injury he said he had suffered while helping carry a body bag.
Mr. Palin’s evidence: He told Ms. Peterson, the commissioner’s assistant, that he had seen the trooper riding a snowmobile while on medical leave and that he had photographs to prove it.
When Mr. Palin called back two weeks later, Ms. Peterson said she had met with the trooper but was not authorized to discuss the conversation because it was an official state personnel matter. The issue was eventually resolved in Trooper Wooten’s favor, after his chiropractor sent a letter saying he had approved of the trooper’s riding a snowmobile, as long as he was careful.
Mr. Palin declined to be interviewed. But in a sworn affidavit this week for the legislative investigation, he wrote that he had hundreds of communications about the trooper “with my family, with friends, with colleagues and with just about everyone I could, including government officials.” He added, “In fact, I talked about Wooten so much over the years that my wife told me to stop talking about it with her.”
As for what he had told his wife, Mr. Palin said he often raised his concerns about “the unfairness of his remaining on the state troopers when he was obviously so unfit for the job.”
Of the dozen calls Ms. Peterson received about Trooper Wooten, she said, at least half were from Dianne Kiesel, a deputy director at the Department of Administration. The last discussion with Ms. Kiesel came after Ms. Peterson informed her that the trooper had been cleared to work full time.
“Since there was now no business reason to separate Wooten, she wanted to know what else we could do with him,” Ms. Peterson said, adding, “I could tell she was under pressure to come up with something.”
Ms. Kiesel enumerated various possibilities, like moving him to the cold-case unit or a desk job doing background checks.
Ms. Peterson, who had worked in human resources management for most of her government career, said she pointed out that those options would violate the public safety union’s contract.
At one meeting, Ms. Peterson recalled, the commissioner of administration, Annette Kreitzer, said “to keep an eye on him and that he gets no special privileges.”
In an interview, Ms. Kreitzer said she was simply calling for routine monitoring of an employee who had a disciplinary history or had not been evaluated in a while. Six other administration aides who initiated contacts with public safety officials about Trooper Wooten did not return calls or declined to comment.
As for Trooper Wooten’s planned appearance as Safety Bear, Mr. Monegan said he decided to pull him back.
In July, Ms. Palin’s acting chief of staff called Mr. Monegan to another meeting in that same room in the governor’s Anchorage office. The aide, Michael A. Nizich, said the governor wanted him to head the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, part of the public safety department. Put another way, he was no longer commissioner.
Saying the firing had come “out of the blue,” Mr. Monegan asked how he had upset the governor. Ms. Palin, the aide said, wanted to take the agency in a new direction.
“Was it Wooten?” Mr. Monegan recalled asking.
“A new direction,” was the reply.
The Legislature’s investigation began after a local blogger, who had been a political rival of Ms. Palin, linked Mr. Monegan’s firing to, among other reasons, his refusal to dismiss Trooper Wooten. Initially the governor said through a spokeswoman that the dismissal had nothing to do with a “personality conflict.” Since then, her explanations have evolved, from saying that he was lagging on filling trooper vacancies and tackling alcohol-abuse problems in rural Alaska to showing an “intolerable pattern of insubordination” and a “rogue mentality” by resisting her authority and spending reforms, sometimes publicly.
Mr. Monegan’s successor, Mr. Kopp, said that when the trooper came up in his pre-employment conversations with Palin aides, “it was raised within the context of one of the things that I needed to be aware of, but there was no direction to take any job action.”
During his first week on the job, Mr. Kopp received a call from Mr. Nizich. Trooper Wooten, in uniform, had shown up at the governor’s picnic, which is open to the public. “Is there anything you can do?” Mr. Nizich asked, explaining that the Palins were concerned about his presence.
The trooper was told to leave the area.
About a week later, Mr. Kopp resigned amid scrutiny of a 2005 sexual harassment complaint.
Mr. Wooten, who declined to be interviewed for this article, remains on the force as a patrol trooper.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Seven Palin aides to testify in "Palin's Abuse of Power Probe"
Seven Palin aides to testify in probe
There is no indication that Palin, husband will agree to interview
By Matt Apuzzo | The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE - Seven aides to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have reversed course and agreed to testify in an investigation into whether the Republican vice presidential nominee abused her powers by firing a commissioner who refused to dismiss her former brother-in-law.
There is no indication, however, that Palin or her husband will now agree to testify in the legislative inquiry, which has dogged her for the past several months and could hurt John McCain in the final weeks of the presidential race.
Palin, a first-term governor, is the focus of a legislative investigation into her firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan a year after she, her husband and key advisers began questioning him about getting rid of a state trooper who had gone through a nasty divorce with her sister.
Monegan says he was dismissed because he wouldn't fire the governor's former brother-in-law, but Palin contends he was dismissed for insubordination. McCain operatives called Monegan a "rogue" who repeatedly tried to work outside normal channels for requesting money.
Lawmakers subpoenaed seven state employees to testify in the inquiry but they challenged those subpoenas. After a judge rejected that challenge last week, the employees decided to testify, Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg said.
Democratic state Sen. Hollis French, who is managing the investigation, said that, following the court ruling, he again asked Palin and her husband, Todd, whether they planned to testify.
"We've had no response," French said Sunday.
Palin says the legislative inquiry has become too political and she believes that only the state's personnel board should investigate the firing. Todd Palin has agreed to speak with investigators for that panel but not for the legislative inquiry.
The governor has the authority to fire the members of the personnel board.
Alaska's Supreme Court, meanwhile, is considering whether to block the findings of the legislative inquiry. The high court scheduled arguments for Wednesday over whether the case is being manipulated to hurt Palin before Election Day on Nov. 4.
The decision by the state employees to testify will not affect that appeal, said Kevin Clarkson, a lawyer for five Republican lawmakers who brought that challenge.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Palinbots run amuck in the court system
Judge Peter A. Michalski put to rest those questions that have been repeatedly and erroneously raised by paid mouthpieces of the McCain Campaign to challenge the legitimacy of the investigation. (Below are excerpts from the court decision.)
Question 1: Can the Legislature engage in the "Troopergate Investigation?"
Excerpt from court decision: "...Monegan, as Commissioner of Public Safety, is subject to confirmation by the Alaska Legislature. Alaska Constitution Article III, Section 25. It is legitimately within the scope of the legislature's investigatory power to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the termination (of) a public officer the legislature has previously confirmed."
Question 2: Did the Legislative Council have the authority to investigate?
Excerpt from the court decision: "...under the Malone rationale, the court can only evaluate whether the Legislative Council is complying with the Alaska Constitution. The Constitution authorizes the "legislative council" to "perform duties and employ personnel as provided by the legislature." Alaska Constitution Article II Section 11. It is clear that the constitution intended the Legislative Council be governed internally by legislature. Under Malone, this is a matter for the legislative branch, not the judicial branch."
Question 3: Are the subjects of the subpoenas outside the jurisdiction of the Senate Judiciary Committee?
Excerpt from the court decision: "AS 24.25.010 gives the legislature and the Senate Judiciary Committee's subpoena power. Because the investigation is a proper subject for the legislature, any allegation that the Senate Judiciary Committee has stepped outside its boundaries is, under Malone, an issue for the legislative branch, not the judicial branch."
The court has made it very clear that this has always been a constitutionally lawful investigation.
Letter to Palin from Alaskans for Truth
In light of this, the people of Alaska have the right to expect their government to act lawfully in response. As you requested, Governor Palin, we will once again "hold you accountable."
1) Governor Palin, you should immediately provide a deposition for Investigator Branchflower, as you originally promised Alaskans.
2) Governor Palin, you should immediately order those 12 individuals who defied their subpoenas to contact Investigator Branchflower and set up their own depositions.
3) Ask for AG Talis Colberg's immediate resignation for his unethical and potentially unlawful response to this investigation.
4) Tell McCain Campaign's East Coast attorney, Ed O'Callaghan "Thanks, but no thanks," and send him back to New York. As this court decision destroyed all of his talking points, he has nothing left to discuss.
We look forward to your response.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Judge hands down ruling in Troopergate lawsuit
Judge Peter Michalski said, the Steve Branchflower investigation does not violate due process. Attorneys for the plaintiffs say they may appeal the decision.
Critics of the investigation tried very hard to throw the defense off-guard. On Wednesday, six republican lawmakers filed a request for a temporary restraining order against the investigation, and late afternoon Wednesday, another last-minute challenge questioning whether Peter Maassen should be allowed to represent Sen. Lyda Green. But in the end, their attempts failed.
For about two hours, Michalski listened to arguments aimed at quashing the seven subpoenas, as well as stopping the investigation altogether.
"Sen. French's response was not to move the investigation after the election to remove all the political aspects of it but to move it earlier, keeping it in October so he could have his October surprise," said Kevin Clarkson, the plaintiffs' attorney.
The defense argued that the investigation is a vital part of constitutional checks and balances.
"If the legislature doesn't have the ability to oversee the actions of the executive, then who does?" said defense attorney Maassen. "Is there anybody in this courtroom who wants to live in a state where the executive is accountable only to the executive? I would think, used to think, the answer to that would be a resounding 'no,' especially from the people like the legislators who are the plaintiffs here."
Rep. Carl Gatto joined the five Republican plaintiffs late Wednesday night.
"Temporary restraining order -- it's temporary," Gatto said. "We're not trying to squash anything. Let's just say it's more important for us to not make this political."
But the defense argues, the request is in itself political.
"There's a legislative investigation within the legitimate sphere of legislative activity, and for the court to even contemplate even shutting it down would be seismic for the balance of powers, the separation of powers doctrine in the state of Alaska. We ask that the motion for TRO be denied."
Ending the debate Judge Michalski adjourned for deliberation, "We'll take the matter under advisement. We'll be in recess."
Hours later, the judge ruled in favor of the defense.
Maassen says he's very pleased with the ruling.
"This is a good day for the constitution," he said.
The plaintiffs' attorneys, however, released a statement: "This decision is dangerous because it robs every Alaskan of the protection specifically provided by the Alaska constitution."
The conclusion of the legislative investigation is slated for October 10th.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
A review of Palin's public statements
A review of her public statements, signed and vetoed bills, and interviews with people in state government provide insight into Ms. Palin’s positions on other statewide issues:
HEALTH CARE Ms. Palin proposed eliminating a requirement that new medical facilities receive a “certificate of need” from the state before opening. She argued that the certificate program had the effect of driving health care costs up by not allowing more competition and potentially better health care in newer facilities.
In an op-ed piece in The Anchorage Daily News in February, Ms. Palin wrote that eliminating the certificate program, “with certain exceptions, will allow free-market competition and reduce onerous government regulation.” The bill, strongly opposed by hospitals, did not make it out of the Legislature.
TRADE Ms. Palin does not appear to have made any trade missions since taking office, and former state officials said the state’s trade staff had been reduced under her watch.
Alaska has also sharply reduced its role in the Northern Forum, an association of state and regional governments from countries including Canada, Russia, Japan and China that works on common issues in northern regions like economic development, flooding and global warming.
Under Governor Murkowski, Palin’s predecessor, the state sent senior administration officials to the forum’s meetings and contributed $60,000 to $100,000 to the forum each year, according to the forum’s executive director, Priscilla Wohl.
Under Palin, the state has reduced its spending to the base-level membership dues, $15,000, and the administration has not attended any forum meetings, including one last fall in Russia.
“Had she participated, in the last 18 months she would have met ambassadors, governors, heads of the European Union’s programs, of United Nations programs,” Ms. Wohl said.
EDUCATION In March, Ms. Palin approved a widely praised legislative effort that would increase education spending by about $200 million over five years, an increase made possible by revenue surpluses from the rising price of oil.
She largely took her education spending proposal from the recommendations of a special task force created by lawmakers to address an issue that had long divided the capital.
The final product increased money for rural schools but also nearly tripled the per-student allocation for students with intensive special needs, in districts like Anchorage, where enrollment has increased from students moving in from rural Alaska for services.
Palin’s son Trig, born in April, has Down syndrome. The special-needs population served by the increase in spending includes students with Down syndrome, said Carol Comeau, superintendent of the Anchorage School District.
Ms. Comeau was among several education experts who gave much of the credit for the increase in financing to the legislative task force but also praised Ms. Palin for approving the bill. She noted that Ms. Palin initially sought a larger per-student increase for the general student population than the Legislature approved.
Some people close to the legislation noted that if Palin had opposed the increases she would have risked alienating Democratic lawmakers whose support she needed for the pipeline legislation.
ENVIRONMENT Ms. Palin has taken positions that reflect her support for developing Alaska’s natural resources. Her views are largely in line with those of voters in her state, but not with environmentalists.
Like most other Alaskans, Ms. Palin supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, while her running mate, Senator John McCain, is opposed. She has been ambiguous about whether she believes humans are causing climate change, while Mr. McCain has embraced science linking climate change to human activities.
In August, Ms. Palin sued the federal government for listing the polar bear as a threatened species, saying climate models that showed that the bears would be affected by melting Arctic ice are unreliable. (Documents later revealed that state biologists disagreed with members of the Palin administration.) The governor and other state lawmakers opposed the listing because it could limit drilling for oil off Alaska’s coast.
The most contentious environmental issue within Alaska recently has been the fight over the proposed Pebble Mine, one of the world’s largest discoveries of gold and copper. The proposed mine would be at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, home to one of the world’s largest runs of wild salmon.
In response to a candidate questionnaire two years ago, Ms. Palin told The Anchorage Daily News, “As part of a Bristol Bay fishing family, I would not support any development that would endanger the most sensitive and productive fishery in the world.”
This year, in August, a ballot initiative before state voters would have made it more difficult to open mines that could damage salmon streams. Ms. Palin came out against the measure just days before it was defeated.
Supporters of the measure believe the governor’s public opposition may have broken ethics laws prohibiting state officials from advocating for ballot initiatives. State ethics officials are reviewing the matter.
THE ELDERLY For many years, Alaska had a so-called longevity bonus, which paid up to $250 a month to elderly people who had lived in Alaska before statehood in 1959. The program was not based on financial need, however, and Mr. Murkowski ended it in 2003, when the state budget was tight.
Ms. Palin promised in her 2006 campaign to restore the bonus. In 2007, however, lawmakers rejected her proposal and instead passed a bill that helped low-income elderly Alaskans. Ms. Palin signed the bill, which pays up to $250 a month to qualifying people over 65.
BUDGET Even with the state enjoying a multibillion-dollar surplus because of high oil prices, Ms. Palin has vetoed about $500 million in capital spending projects requested by state lawmakers in two consecutive budgets. She also supported putting about $7 billion of surplus revenue into state savings over two years.
A chunk of that surplus, about $2 billion, came from the governor’s effort to increase taxes on the oil industry. Ms. Palin’s initial proposal would have brought in about $600 million more in oil taxes, but when lawmakers raised oil taxes higher, Ms. Palin continued to support the measure. That angered many conservative Republicans, as did the governor’s plan to use about $740 million of the surplus to give each Alaskan a $1,200 “rebate” to help pay for high energy costs.
Opponents of the oil tax increase, most of them conservative Republicans, say it ultimately may reduce exploration in the North Slope at a time when oil production is declining. Some also say the rebate money would have been better off saved or spent on long-term efforts to reduce energy costs.
“Throwing money at people is what politicians do when they don’t have a policy,” said Representative Mike Hawker, Republican of Anchorage.
SOCIAL ISSUES Ms. Palin has been open about her conservative views, which include opposition to same-sex marriage and the use of embryonic stem cells for research.
Even so, she has passed over chances as governor to take bold legislative stands on conservative social issues. She declined calls by abortion opponents this year to hold a special session to pass a measure requiring minors to get parental consent before having abortions. The governor chose instead to focus on passing the pipeline legislation. Mr. Hawker, the Republican lawmaker, said the decision reflected Ms. Palin’s political pragmatism.
“She did not take on the Democrats whose support she needed,” he said.