Category Archives: Alaska Public Safety Commissioner

Alaska Rep. Les Gara Demands An Apology From Gov. Palin’s Spokesperson Meg Stapleton (Videos)

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Gov. Sarah Palin Makes Troopergate Assertions that Are Flatly False

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and her husband Todd Palin

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and her husband Todd Palin

ABC News senior correspondent Jake Tapper addresses Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s reaction to the Troopergate ethics investigative report released on Friday, October 11, 2008 by the Alaska Legislature.  Seems she has an entirely different take on the findings of the bipartisan legislative body who concluded that Gov. Palin’s conduct “violated AS 39.52.110(a) of the Ethics Act…”  But, according to Gov. Palin, she is “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.”  Just what ethics report did Governor Sarah Palin read to come up with that spin?

On Saturday, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin twice spoke to reporters about the so-called “Troopergate” scandal and the investigative report on whether she had abused her power in trying to get her sister’s ex-husband Mike Wooten fired as a state trooper, and for firing Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan one year after she, her staffers, and her husband Todd began unsuccessfully pressuring Monegan to let Wooten go.

Palin spoke on the phone with Alaska reporters about the report. The McCain-Palin campaign only allowed one question per reporter. The journalists came from the Anchorage Daily News, KTVA-Channel 11 and KTUU-Channel 2. No follow-ups were allowed.

The call can be heard HERE.

“Well, I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing,” Palin said, “any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that.”

That’s just not the case.

One can make the argument, as Palin and her allies have tried to do, that this investigation — launched by a bipartisan Republican-controlled legislative body — was somehow a partisan Democratic witch hunt, but one cannot honestly make the argument that the report concluded that Palin was “cleared of any legal wrongdoing” or “any hint of unethical activity.”

The investigator did conclude that Palin’s firing of Monegan was within her power, that “although Walt Monegan’s refusal to fire Trooper Wooten was not the sole reason he was fired by Governor Sarah Palin, it was likely a contributing factor to his termination as Commissioner of Public Safety. In spite of that, Governor Palin’s firing of Commissioner Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.”

But it finds that Palin “knowingly, as that term is defined in … statutes, permitted Todd Palin to use the Governor’s office and the resources of the Governor’s office, including access to state employees, to continue to contact subordinate state employees in an effort to find some way to get Trooper Wooten fired. Her conduct violated AS 39.52.110(a) of the Ethics Act…”

The report states: “I find that Governor Sarah Palin Abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act … Compliance with the code of ethics is not optional

The evidence supports the conclusion that Governor Palin, at the least, engaged in ‘official action’ by her inaction if not her active participation or assistance to her husband in attempting to get Trooper Wooten fired [and there is evidence of her active participation.] She knowingly, as that term is defined in the above cited statutes, permitted Todd Palin to use the Governor’s office and the resources of the Governor’s office, including access to state employees, to continue to contact subordinate state employees in an effort to find some way to get Trooper Wooten fired. Her conduct violated AS 39.52.110(a) of the Ethics Act

Governor Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda.”

Read the report HERE.

Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt explains that when Palin says she’s been cleared of any legal or ethical violations, “She was referring to the conclusion of the report that found that she acted properly and lawfully with regard to reassigning Monegan, which was the original purpose of the investigation.”

But Palin is seldom that specific.

When Palin first commented on the report she parsed.

Asked “Governor, did you abuse your power?” she said, “No, and if you read the report you’ll see that there was nothing unlawful or unethical about replacing a cabinet member. You gotta read the report, sir.”

It’s true that there’s nothing “unlawful or unethical about replacing a cabinet member” in principle. And the report concluded that she had the power to fire Monegan.

But the report concluded that she had abused her power, and there was indeed something “unethical” about her behavior, insofar as it violated the state Ethics Act.

But now Palin has moved on from parsing to assertions that are not true.

“Governor,” asked a reporter with the Anchorage Daily News, “finding Number One 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?”

“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,” Palin said. “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.”

Again, not true.

She was NOT cleared, certainly not of “unethical activity.”

In Altoona, Pa., at the flagship Sheetz gas station, Palin was asked to elaborate about her assertion that there was nothing “unethical or unlawful that was done.”

I’m thankful that the report has shown that, that there was no illegal or unethical activity there in my choice to replace our commissioner, so, now we look forward to working with the personnel board that the entity that is charged with looking into any activity of a governor, the lieutenant governor, or an attorney general,” Palin said.

That came closer to the truth. The report did in fact conclude that Palin had the power to fire Monegan.

“Governor, if I can follow up,” a reporter said, “the report says that you did abuse your authority in trying to get Officer Wooten fired. How do you respond to that charge?”

There was no abuse of authority at all in trying to get Officer Wooten fired,” Palin said.

If she was stating that as her opinion, fine, but if she was stating that as the conclusion of the report, that’s false.

“In fact, remember, Officer Wooten is still an Alaska state trooper, which is up to the commissioner, top brass in the department of public safety to decide who is worthy of wearing a badge and carrying a gun in the state of Alaska,” Palin said. “And if they think that Trooper Wooten is worthy of that, that’s their decision. I don’t micromanage my commissioners and ask them to hire or fire anyone, and thankfully the truth was revealed there in that report, that showed that there was no unlawful nor unethical activity on my part.”

Again, not true.

Gov. Sarah Palin Makes Troopergate Assertions that Are Flatly False

Sensitive Gov. Palin Troopergate Ethics Report Kept Secret, For Now

The following was just posted on the Associated Press website within the hour … seems that Alaska lawmakers aren’t eager to release the Troopergate ethics report to the American public.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Sworn to secrecy, Alaska lawmakers have begun reviewing a lengthy and politically sensitive investigative report focusing on whether Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin abused her authority as governor.

The first-term Alaska governor has been accused of firing a state commissioner to settle a family dispute. But the report is also expected to touch on whether Palin’s husband meddled in state affairs and whether her administration inappropriately accessed employee medical records.

The inquiry, approved by a legislative committee’s bipartisan vote, began before Republican presidential nominee John McCain named Palin his running mate. Since then, the case has been dogged by accusations of political influence.

The investigation focuses on her firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan. Monegan says Palin and her husband pressured him to fire Mike Wooten, a state trooper involved in a nasty divorce and custody dispute with the governor’s sister. When Monegan resisted, he says, he was fired.

Palin’s critics say that shows she used her office to settle family affairs.

Sensitive Palin Ethics Report Kept Secret, For Now

Supreme Court Won’t Block Gov. Palin Troopergate Inquiry

State Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, left, talks with attorney Peter Maassen after oral arguments before the Alaska Supreme Court in Anchorage Oct. 8, 2008.

State Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, left, talks with attorney Peter Maassen after oral arguments before the Alaska Supreme Court in Anchorage Oct. 8, 2008.

Just in from the Anchorage Daily News this afternoon… the Alaska Supreme Court rejected attempts by Republican legislators to close the Troopergate ethics investigation of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin!  In the article by Sean Chockerham, the Supreme Court’s ruling clears the way for Steven Branchflower to release his investigative findings tomorrow on Friday, October 10, 2008.   

The Alaska Supreme Court today rejected an attempt by a group of six Republican legislators to shut down the Legislature’s investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin.

The ruling means that Steve Branchflower, the investigator hired by the Legislative Council, will release his report as scheduled on Friday. Branchflower is looking into Palin’s dismissal of her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, and whether she improperly pressured him to fire a state trooper divorced from her sister.

The state Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Texas-based Liberty Legal Institute and Anchorage attorney Kevin Clarkson, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Alaska Republican state legislators opposed to their colleagues’ investigation.

The state legislators whose names appeared on the appeal attempting to stop the investigation are Wes Keller, Mike Kelly, Fred Dyson, Tom Wagoner, Carl Gatto and Bob Lynn.

Their lawyers argued that allowing the investigation to proceed would threaten the right under the Alaska Constitution to a “fair and just” investigation by the Legislature. They allege bias among the legislators who are leading the investigation, and that the Legislative Council lacks the authority to order the probe.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michalski ruled last week that the conduct of the investigation did not violate the right to fairness. He found the Legislature has the right to investigate and issues like whether it happens through a council or committee are not for the courts to decide and is “business to be left to the legislative branch.”

The Alaska Supreme Court today upheld Michalski’s ruling in a two-page decision. The court clerk, Marilyn May, wrote that a full opinion explaining why would be coming.

Supreme Court Won’t Block Gov. Palin Troopergate Inquiry

Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg Says 7 State Employees Will Now Testify in Gov. Palin Troopergate Investigation

As reported in this morning’s Anchorage Daily News by journalist Wesley Loy, State Attorney General Talis Colberg has announced that the seven state employees who previously refused to testify in the Governor Sarah Palin “Troopergate” ethics investigation will now cooperate with investigators. 

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s attorney general announced Sunday that seven state employees will now honor subpoenas to testify in the legislative investigation of the Troopergate affair.

Attorney General Talis Colberg said the decision comes in light of Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski’s ruling last week rejecting an attempt to kill the subpoenas.

The state Department of Law “consulted with the seven state employees and advised them of their options,” a statement from Colberg’s office said.

All seven have decided to cooperate with the investigation, the statement said.

“Despite my initial concerns about the subpoenas, we respect the court’s decision to defer to the Legislature,” Colberg said. “We are working with Senator Hollis French to arrange for the testimony of the seven state employee plaintiffs.”

The seven employees, with Colberg’s office acting as their attorney, sued the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 25, arguing that legislators on the committee lacked authority to issue the subpoenas.

Michalski disagreed, ruling the investigation “is a proper subject for the Legislature” and any allegation that the committee overstepped its bounds is “an issue for the legislative branch, not the judicial branch.”

A different, bipartisan panel of legislators known as the Legislative Council voted July 28 to hire a retired state prosecutor, Steve Branchflower, to investigate whether Palin abused her power in firing former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.

Monegan has said he believes he lost his job because he resisted pressure from Palin and others to fire a state trooper involved in a child custody battle with the governor’s sister. Palin says budget clashes with Monegan, not the trooper issue, triggered his firing.

The so-called Troopergate investigation has taken on national significance since Aug. 29, when Palin was announced as Republican John McCain’s vice presidential running mate.

The campaign claims biased Democrats are controlling the legislative investigation and hope to use the results against the McCain-Palin ticket in the final weeks of campaigning before the Nov. 4 election. Branchflower is expected to finish his report by this Friday.

In an exchange of letters with Colberg, state Sen. Kim Elton, a Juneau Democrat and Legislative Council chairman, questioned whether the attorney general believed obeying a subpoena is “voluntary.”

On Sunday, Elton said details were still being worked out on when the seven state employees will meet with Branchflower for questioning.

Enough time is left for Branchflower to conduct useful interviews with the seven witnesses, Elton said, but added: “It would have been much better to have done this two weeks ago.”

Among the seven state employees are some of Palin’s top aides, including her chief of staff, Mike Nizich, and administration commissioner Annette Kreitzer.

The Judiciary Committee also issued a subpoena to the governor’s husband, Todd Palin, who had talked with Monegan and other state workers about his family’s displeasure with the trooper.

Todd Palin has refused to honor the subpoena, but his lawyer said he plans to cooperate with a separate investigation the state Personnel Board is conducting into Monegan’s firing. That investigation, however, likely won’t conclude until after the election.

Legislators did not subpoena the governor herself.

Witness list

These seven state employees have now agreed to cooperate in the legislative investigation of the Troopergate affair.

  • Dianne Kiesel, a state human resources manager
  • Annette Kreitzer, state administration commissioner
  • Janice Mason, Gov. Sarah Palin’s scheduler and executive secretary
  • Nicki Neal, state personnel and labor relations director
  • Mike Nizich, Palin’s chief of staff
  • Kris Perry, director of the governor’s Anchorage office
  • Brad Thompson, state risk management director

 

Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg Says 7 State Employees Will Now Testify in Gov. Palin Troopergate Investigation

Gov. Palin Losing Friends on the Alaskan Home Front

In an editorial by the former Anchorage Daily News editorial page editor Michael Carey, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s drop in popularity among her constituents is examined.  Life could get interesting for Gov. Palin after the 2008 presidential election when she returns to Alaska and faces the many bridges that she’s burnt. 

Sarah Palin may be making new friends as she campaigns the nation, but at home, she’s making new enemies. She better get elected vice president. If she returns to Alaska as governor, the reception will be frosty — and not because winter has arrived.

In the last month, Palin has become something inconceivable during her first two years as the state’s chief executive: A polarizing figure rapidly emptying the storehouse of good will she accumulated.

For starters, her relationship with the press has collapsed — by her choice. She rarely talks to reporters. Her attack on the “media elite” at the Republican National Convention should have embarrassed her. There is no media elite in Alaska, and she generally received favorable press, except from a few conservative dissenters, as a candidate for governor and as governor.

You say she was unhappy with the eastern media, not the local scribes when she spoke to the convention. Well, during her recent visit to New York City she attended a dinner put together by Rupert Murdoch who, according to gossip columnist Cindy Adams, “piloted Sarah around” during the evening. Murdoch is one of the world’s most influential media barons. Also present was Cathy Black, president of Hearst Magazines. Other VIPS on hand at Tao on 58th Street, where a Kobe rib eye steak costs $88, included Sarah Ferguson, Martha Stewart, designer Vera Wang and the Queen of Jordan. Not the media elite — just the elite.

Troopergate was once a provincial tempest in a teapot that could have been resolved with minimal recriminations. Now it’s a full-fledged partisan battle, and the search for truth has become the hunt for a diamond in a cesspool.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Hollis French deserves criticism for his clumsy response once Troopergate went national: He should have never used the word “impeachment” in any context. But the bulk of this responsibility for the ugly mess falls on Palin herself, who can’t separate her personal life from her professional life, Attorney General Talis Colberg, who can’t figure out if he works for the people of Alaska or the Palin family, and the hammerheads sent up here by John McCain to run the local McCain-Palin campaign. Like their masters, these guys will tell any old tale about Hollis French, the Democrats and the media as long as it advances their cause. Remember Rudy Guiliani and Karl Rove touting Palin’s military experience as commander of the national guard? And her foreign policy experience because Alaska is near Russia? Pants-on-fire lies, but hey, who needs facts when you have talking points provided by headquarters in Washington.

Investigator Steve Branchflower be warned. If you issue a report on Troopergate before the election in any fashion critical of Gov. Palin, you can expect to be made to look like a war criminal. Or worse.

Thanks to Troopergate, the relationship Palin established with Democrats during two legislative sessions — the trust and accommodation she needed to pass her gas-line and oil-tax legislation — no longer exists.

Throughout her political career, Palin has benefited from establishing and exploiting contrast favorable to her. The contrast between Palin the woman-of-integrity and dishonest Republican bosses. The contrast between the fresh new Palin and ham-handed incumbent fossil Gov. Frank Murkowski. The contrast between woman-of-the-people Palin and the public-be-damned oil companies. Even the contrast between young, vital Palin and aging, stiff John McCain — which perversely enough has helped John McCain in the polls.

Now Palin stands in contrast with herself, before and after her nomination. And there’s no benefit for her — at least not in Alaska where she is still the governor.

Gov. Palin Losing Friends on the Alaskan Home Front

Breaking News: Palin Implicated By Witness in ‘Troopergate’ Probe

Alaskan citizen at Anti-Palin Rally

Alaskan citizen at Anti-Palin Rally

In an exclusive, investigative report by Jason Leopold published on The Public Record September 29, 2008 and mentioned today by Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic in his “Palin’s Petty Abuse of Power” Daily Dish, a witness has finally provided testimony in the Troopergate ethics investigation of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.  It would seem that Gov. Palin, her husband Todd Palin, and her staff member did much more than just pressure Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan to fire Palin’s former brother-in-law, Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten.

An Alaska woman who owns a company that processes workers’ compensation claims in the state has told an independent investigator that she was urged by the office of Gov. Sarah Palin to deny a benefits claim for Palin’s ex brother-in-law, a state trooper who was involved in an ugly divorce and child custody dispute with Palin’s sister, despite evidence that the claim appeared to be legitimate, according to state officials who were briefed about the conversation.

Murlene Wilkes, the proprietor of Harbor Adjusting Services in Anchorage, had originally denied that she was pressured by Gov. Palin’s office to deny state trooper Mike Wooten’s claim for workers compensation benefits.

But Wilkes changed her story two weeks ago when she was subpoenaed by Steven Branchflower, the former federal prosecutor who was appointed in July to probe allegations Gov. Palin, Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate, abused her office by abruptly ousting Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, state officials knowledgeable about her conversation with Branchflower said.

Monegan has said he felt pressured by Gov. Palin, her husband, Todd, and several of her aides to fire Wooten. Branchflower’s investigation centers on whether Palin fired Monegan because he refused to fire Wooten.

Palin initially welcomed the investigation, which was approved unanimously in July by the state’s Legislative Council, which has a Republican majority. However, after McCain picked Palin in late August to be his vice presidential running mate, national and state Republicans began suggesting that the investigation was a partisan witch-hunt against Palin.

Despite pressure from the McCain-Palin campaign – and the refusal of Todd Palin and some Palin aides to honor subpoenas seeking their depositions – senior Alaskan legislators said Branchflower still intended to finish his report on the controversy by Oct. 10.

The workers’ compensation issue is likely to be a major focus of Branchflower’s report, according to state officials knowledgeable about the course of the investigation.

Wilkes has a $1.2 million contract with the state to handle workers compensation claims. Her contract with the state was up but her firm was recently given a new contract despite the fact that there were others who provided the state with a lower bid than Wilkes’s firm. One of the other applicants who submitted a lower bid has appealed the decision.

Wilkes told Branchflower she believed it was impressed upon her from Palin’s office that she would lose the contract if she did not deny the claim, state officials knowledgeable about her testimony said. 

Although Wooten did receive worker’s compensation benefits for about three months, his claim was suddenly denied and he was forced to hire a lawyer and appeal the issue, which dragged on for more than six months. It’s unknown if Wilkes played any role in denying Wooten worker’s compensation benefits. 

According to John Cyr, the executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association, the union that represents Wooten and other state troopers, Wooten was approved for workers compensation benefits in January 2007. He filed for benefits due to a back injury he suffered when he pulled a dead body from a wrecked automobile and slipped on icy pavement.

The same month Wooten started receiving workers compensation benefits, Todd Palin began following Wooten around “snapping pictures of him,” Cyr said.

“Frank Bailey was getting people to say that [Wooten] was lying on his worker’s comp form,” Cyr said. “The governor’s family was following Mike around everywhere. They forwarded that information to the worker’s comp division.”

Cyr said Wooten had been received his benefits checks totaling $11,000 without any problems until “somewhere between the end of March and the first of April.”

“Out of nowhere [Wooten’s] workers comp claim was contravened, which basically means he got a letter saying he wasn’t entitled to benefits anymore,” Cyr said in an interview. Documents show that a state lawyer intervened in the case. Wooten “hired an attorney and filed a counterclaim against the state. Eventually, in November 2007 there was a settlement. Part of that settlement included an operation on [Wooten’s] back in California. This was a serious injury and he was flat broke and had to file for bankruptcy because his claims were denied. There was absolutely a personal vendetta against this trooper by the governor and the governor’s staff.”

However, according to documents in Wooten’s case, the trooper had a preexisting condition that resulted in his disability claims being denied.

But Branchflower has obtained evidence that extends beyond Wilkes’s statements that shows the denial of Wooten’s benefits was due to Palin’s office involvement in the case, according to the officials knowledgeable about this aspect of the probe.

Branchflower has apparently zeroed in on a routing slip dated Aug. 21-about a month after the ethics probe into Palin was launched-from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development shows Wooten’s workers comp file was pulled and sent to the attention of Mike Monagle, a state manager with the workers’ compensation division.

“Wooten, as requested,” the routing slip says, which was made out to the attention of “Mike Monagle.”

“A request came in to return all of Wooten’s [worker’s comp] files to Juneau [the state capital],” according to a note and routing slip faxed to Cyr from the worker’s compensation division. “The person who asked to route the files was told the files were being copied for the governor.”

It’s unclear why Palin’s office requested Wooten’s workers compensation files or how it factors into Branchflower’s investigation.

Branchflower confronted Wilkes with evidence-including statements made to Branchflower by one of Wilkes’s former co-workers-that showed her previous statements were contradicted and that Palin’s office did try to intervene and contacted her to ensure Wooten did not receive benefits for a back injury he said he received while on the job.

Wilkes told Branchlower that she received phone calls and personal visits from Palin officials, including Palin’s husband, Todd Palin, and was told to deny Wooten’s application for worker’s compensation claims because he lied about his physical condition, these people said.

Wilkes said Todd Palin had shown her photographs of Wooten on a snowmobile during the time he was allegedly unable to work as evidence that he was not entitled to benefits, these people said. It is unknown whether Branchflower has determined that any laws were broken as a result of Palin’s office alleged interference in her ex brother-in-law’s workers compensation case.

Immediately after being sworn in as Governor of Alaska, Palin and her husband and several senior aides conducted what amounted to a rogue investigation into suspicions that Wooten was faking a job-related injury as a state trooper, according to state documents, law enforcement officials and former aides to Palin.

The investigation was conducted using the resources of Gov. Palin’s office and had the goal of destroying Mike Wooten’s career with the Alaska state troopers, the documents and the interviews reveal.

A little-noticed passage in a transcript of a conversation between Frank Bailey, Palin’s director of boards and commissions, and Alaska State Trooper Lt. Rodney Dial shows that Palin’s office had developed information against Wooten that was turned over to the state’s worker’s compensation board, purportedly to prove that Wooten was not too sick or injured to work.

In the Feb. 28, 2008, conversation with Dial, Bailey disclosed that Gov. Palin and her husband had uncovered information about the trooper that was not publicly available and had collected statements about Wooten going “snowmachining” when he was out on workers comp for a back injury.

“The situation where [Wooten] declared workers comp, but then was caught on an eight-mile snowmachining [sic] trip days – days after, you know, that – that started coming up there,” Bailey said. “So we collected statements that we forwarded on to worker’s comp.”

In January 2007, the same month Wooten began collecting workers comp benefits and less than 30 days into Palin’s term as governor, Todd Palin invited new public safety commissioner Monegan to the governor’s office, where Todd Palin urged Monegan to reopen the Wooten case. After checking on it, Monegan said he informed Todd Palin that he couldn’t do anything because the case was closed.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Monegan said that a few days later, the governor also called him about the Wooten matter and he gave her the same answer. Monegan said Gov. Palin brought the issue up again in a February 2007 meeting at the state capitol, prompting a warning that she should back off.

Palin Implicated By Witness in ‘Troopergate’ Probe