Category Archives: Walt Monegan

Half-Baked in Alaska: Palin’s 11th Hour “Troopergate” Exoneration Was a Lie

Award-winning journalist Geoffrey Dunn, writing for the Huffington Post, examines the unanswered questions left by the differening investigative findings into the Troopergate scandal of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. 

It was surely an odd bit of timing on Monday, November 3–just hours before one of the biggest presidential elections in American history–that the Alaska State Personnel Board issued a finding by its chief investigator, Timothy J. Petumenos, that Republican vice-presidential candidate and Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, did not breach state ethics laws when she fired Alaska public safety commissioner Walt Monegan in July of this year.

This last minute finding appeared to exonerate Palin of any legal culpability in the so-called “Troopergate” scandal that dogged her throughout her ill-fated, two-month run on the Republican ticket. Palin boldly claimed it a “vindication,” while headlines throughout the world declared that she had been “cleared” of any wrongdoing.

That was hardly the case. Composed entirely of political appointees–and all Republican–the Personnel Board was hell-bent on clearing Palin from the get-go. Its findings were neither final nor impartial. And they leave many questions about her behavior, along with that of her husband’s and her staff’s, unanswered.

Perhaps the most significant questions that remain are whether or not Governor Palin and her husband, Todd, committed perjury in their sworn affidavits to the personnel board.

There is significant circumstantial evidence that they did.

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Palin Vindicated? Her Response is Either Astoundingly Ignorant or Downright Orwellian

"Country First" Governor Sarah Palin

Governor Sarah Palin puts "Country First"?

The Editorial Board of the Anchorage Daily News has published their critical take on Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s ‘Orwellian’ response to the Troopergate ethics investigative report released on Friday, October 11, 2008.

Sarah Palin’s reaction to the Legislature’s Troopergate report is an embarrassment to Alaskans and the nation.

She claims the report “vindicates” her. She said that the investigation found “no unlawful or unethical activity on my part.”

Her response is either astoundingly ignorant or downright Orwellian.

Page 8, Finding Number One of the report says: “I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.”

In plain English, she did something “unlawful.” She broke the state ethics law.

Perhaps Gov. Palin has been too busy to actually read the Troopergate report. Perhaps she is relying on briefings from McCain campaign spinmeisters.

That’s the charitable interpretation.

Because if she had actually read it, she couldn’t claim “vindication” with a straight face.

Palin asserted that the report found “there was no abuse of authority at all in trying to get Officer Wooten fired.”

In fact, the report concluded that “impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda, to wit: to get Trooper Michael Wooten fired.”

Palin’s response is the kind of political “big lie” that George Orwell warned against. War is peace. Black is white. Up is down.

Gov. Palin and her camp trumpeted the report’s second finding: that she was within her legal authority to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. But the report also said it’s likely one of the reasons she fired him was his failure to get rid of her ex-brother-in-law trooper.

That’s not “vindication,” and surely Gov. Palin knows it.

Gov. Palin does have a defense. She could have said:

“I’m gratified that the report confirmed what I said all along, that I had the authority to terminate Walt Monegan as public safety commissioner.

“I absolutely disagree that I violated state ethics law. In repeatedly complaining about trooper Mike Wooten, Todd and I were not pursuing a personal vendetta. We were trying to protect the integrity of the Alaska State Troopers from having an arrogant, almost-out-of-control law-breaker in their ranks. Because the action we were seeking was in the public interest, not purely our personal interest, there is no ethics law violation.”

Gov. Palin and her husband felt so passionately about Wooten because the case was so personal to them. Their passion blinded them to any other considerations.

They had no sense that the power of the governor’s office carries a special responsibility not to use it to settle family scores. They had no sense that legal restrictions might prevent the troopers from firing Wooten. They had no sense that persistent queries from the governor’s office might be perceived as pressure to bend state personnel laws.

Gov. Palin and her husband were obsessed with Wooten the way Capt. Ahab was obsessed with the Great White Whale. No Wooten, no peace.

Has Gov. Palin committed an impeachable offense? Hardly.

Is what she did indictable? No.

But it wasn’t appropriate, especially for someone elected as an ethical reformer. And her Orwellian claims of “vindication” make this blemish on her record look even worse.

You asked us to hold you accountable, Gov. Palin. Did you mean it?

Bottom line: Gov. Palin, read the report. It says you violated the ethics law.

Palin vindicated? Governor offers Orwellian spin

Troopergate Op-Ed: Rachel Maddow Calls Gov. Palin A Liar!

October 13, 2008:  Rachel Maddow responds to Gov. Sarah Palin’s denial of any wrongdoing on her part in the Troopergate ethics investigation.

October 11, 2008:  MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow comments on the findings of the Stephen Branchflower Troopergate ethics report, as well as an interview with former Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.

Walt Monegan Wants Public Hearing to Clear Name in Troopergate Scandal

Former Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan

Former Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan

Alaska’s former public safety commissioner Walt Monegan, whose firing by Governor Sarah Palin lead to the Troopergate ethic investigation, is requesting a hearing by the Alaska Personnel Board in a effort to clear his name.  The Anchorage Daily News reports that Monegan on Monday, October 13, 2008 filed the hearing request through his attorney.  Walt Monegan seeks to clear his reputation from allegations by Gov. Palin and her various spokespersons that he was a “rogue” and “insubordinate” fired because of a demonstrated “rogue mentality.” 

Gov. Sarah Palin’s former public safety commissioner says the governor smeared him and he wants a hearing to clear his name.

Walt Monegan on Monday asked the state personnel board to allow him a chance to disprove the vice presidential nominee’s assertion he was a “rogue” and insubordinate commissioner. The board is investigating Palin’s July dismissal of Monegan.

“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 in law enforcement and related fields,” said the hearing request filed by Monegan’s lawyer, Jeff Feldman.

Palin’s lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, said the governor didn’t defame Monegan.

“We welcome the opportunity to put on all of our evidence regarding Mr. Monegan’s performance,” he said. “Whether the personnel board will, or can, allow this, remains unknown.”

Monegan wants the board to hold a hearing and issue public findings on whether he demonstrated a “rogue mentality” and engaged in insubordination. If the board doesn’t grant the hearing, Monegan indicated he might take the matter to court.

The Legislature on Friday completed its investigation of Palin’s removal of Monegan and whether the governor improperly pressured the public safety department to fire a state trooper who was divorced from her sister. The investigator hired by the Legislative Council, Steve Branchflower, found Palin abused her power by allowing pressure on the department and that Monegan’s refusal to dump Wooten was likely a contributing factor, but not the only reason, she fired him.

Palin has the right to fire commissioners as she sees fit. Monegan said he accepts that but not false attacks made on him to justify the move to the public.

“The evidence, combined with the governor’s changing, inconsistent and implausible explanations, strongly establishes that Mr. Monegan was terminated because he refused to fire Wooten, not because of any supposed failing in his performance as a commissioner,” according to Monegan’s hearing request.

Palin at first would say only that she removed Monegan because she wanted the department to go in a “new direction.” But then, as the controversy grew, she gave other reasons, including budget conflicts with Monegan and his planning of an unauthorized trip to Washington D.C. to lobby for federal money.

Monegan said the governor never complained about his job performance. His filing with the personnel board includes documents backing up his arguments — that he was cooperating on the budget and that the trip to pursue funding to fight sexual assault was in close coordination with the governor’s office. He said much of that information was not included in Branchflower’s report.

Palin’s lawyer, Van Flein, said the governor’s aides have documented their serious problems with Monegan. Even Branchflower concluded Palin had reasons unrelated to Wooten for dismissing Monegan, Van Flein said in an email.

Van Flein said Palin released the reasons behind the commissioner’s removal only when Monegan made “incorrect claims” it was related to Wooten. He said Palin’s first explanation of a “new direction” was a polite euphemism to indicate change without airing all the details.

“Rather than take the cue, Monegan chose to air this laundry in public,” Van Flein said.

Monegan Wants Personnel Board Hearing

Troopergate’s NOT Over – Scope of Alaska’s Personnel Board Investigating Gov. Palin Will Include Other Ethics Complaints

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin faces additional ethics violations in Alaska Personnel Board investigation

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin faces additional ethics violations in Alaska Personnel Board "Troopergate" investigation.

According to the Anchorage Daily News, Troopergate is NOT over for Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.  Investigator Tim Petumenos recently cited a consolidation of complaints and the involvement of other officials as reasons for privacy by the Personnel Board during the investigation.  There are two other ethics complaints currently pending against Gov. Palin, involving hiring practices and illegally breached personnel files.  Additonal charges for harassment of state trooper Mike Wooten, Gov. Palin’s ex-brother-in-law will also be included in the investigation. 

The state Personnel Board investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin’s firing of Walt Monegan has broadened to include other ethics complaints against the governor and examination of actions by other state employees, according to the independent counsel handling the case.

The investigator, Tim Petumenos, did not say who else is under scrutiny. But in two recent letters describing his inquiry, he cited the consolidation of complaints and the involvement of other officials as a reason for not going along with Palin’s request to make the examination of her activities more public.

Two other ethics complaints involving Palin are known. One, by activist Andree McLeod, alleges that state hiring practices were circumvented for a Palin supporter. The case is not related to Monegan’s firing. The other, by the Public Safety Employees Association, alleges that trooper Mike Wooten’s personnel file was illegally breached by state officials.

John Cyr, the PSEA executive director, said Monday the union plans to amend its complaint to be sure the board investigates “harassment” of Wooten as well.

Petumenos has not spoken to the press, in keeping with the secrecy of the state process. But he gave a rough description of the investigation’s course in two letters to an Anchorage attorney threatening a lawsuit over Palin’s effort to waive confidentiality.

Attention is turning this week to the Personnel Board — the state’s official avenue for investigating ethics complaints — after release of the Legislature’s Troopergate investigation last Friday. The Legislature’s investigator concluded that Palin was within her rights to fire Monegan as public safety commissioner, but abused her power and broke the ethics law in joining her husband to push for the firing of Wooten, who was once married to the governor’s sister.

Palin reversed an earlier pledge and refused to cooperate with the Legislature’s investigation, calling it politically biased. In an unusual twist, she filed the ethics complaint against herself before the board, saying she hoped to “clear the air” by an inquiry through proper channels. She asked the board to decide if she broke ethics laws or acted improperly in dismissing Monegan or in dealing with Wooten — basically the same ground Branchflower covered.

Petumenos has requested a copy of Friday’s legislative report, including confidential backup material, said Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, chairman of the Legislative Council. Elton said the council will meet Thursday to vote on whether to give Petumenos all the material gathered by its investigator, Steve Branchflower.

Petumenos was hired by the Personnel Board to handle the case because the state attorney general’s office, which normally investigates ethics charges, would have a conflict investigating the governor.

Under the state’s inscrutable system for investigating official ethics complaints, there’s no way to tell how long Petumenos’ investigation might take. The Personnel Board, made up of three gubernatorial appointees, has meetings scheduled for Oct. 20 and Nov. 3. Agendas for those meetings mention confidential ethics matters to be handled in executive session.

Nor is there any certainty, if the complaints are settled or dismissed, that the results of the investigation will ever be made public. A review of recent Personnel Board cases, however, suggests it’s likely most information will eventually be released.

Palin has been involved in Personnel Board investigations before — though not as a subject of complaint — and at the time complained about their secrecy.

In high-profile cases that established her statewide reputation as an ethics reformer, Palin helped with a 2003 investigation of Republican Party chairman Randy Ruedrich, who was working on a state oil regulatory panel, and she co-filed a complaint in 2004 against then-attorney general Gregg Renkes.

Both men were found by investigators to have crossed ethical lines. Details of the investigations were released in the end, as part of a settlement that stopped short of the full public hearing before an administrative law judge that the law requires in serious cases.

In the Ruedrich case, Palin resigned her state job in protest while the investigation was still secret, saying she felt implicated in a cover-up because of the shroud.

“I’d like to find a hero in the Legislature who can take on and change that law and make it more sensible,” Palin said at the time she resigned. As governor, she has supported changes to ethics laws, but the secrecy of board investigations has not been changed.

Palin fired Monegan in July and the legislative inquiry began later that month.

Four days after her Aug. 29 selection as John McCain’s Republican vice presidential candidate, Palin’s lawyer filed an official ethics complaint over the Monegan affair with the Personnel Board, urging the Legislature to give way. The Legislature refused, creating parallel investigations.

Judging from Petumenos’ letters on the case, he feels able to range as broadly as Branchflower into subjects related to the original ethics complaints.

One element will distinguish the Personnel Board inquiry: It will have Palin’s cooperation.

Sarah and Todd Palin have agreed to be interviewed by Petumenos at the end of next week, said Meg Stapleton, a spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign. She said Monday she has no other details of the arrangement.

There’s another distinction: While the Legislature’s inquiry ended last Friday with vague talk of further action, the official investigation can bring legal consequences under the state ethics law.

The three current members of the Personnel Board were appointed by Gov. Frank Murkowski. Palin reappointed one, Debra English of Anchorage, last January.

The three unsalaried appointees usually handle less momentous matters at quarterly lunch meetings, said Dianne Kiesel, deputy director of the Alaska Division of Personnel and Labor Relations in the state Department of Administration. The board approves changes to state work rules such as promotion, pay and leave regulations.

Meanwhile, many ethics complaints filed against state employees — accusing someone of driving a state vehicle after hours, say, or of providing rude service — get handled by ethics supervisors inside the different state departments. The Personnel Board gets a summary report but is not involved.

It’s the unusual case that becomes a big job requiring extra board meetings.

“Most all of these things get resolved before or at the accusation stage,” said assistant attorney general Judy Bockmon. “Very few matters have actually gone to hearing.”

Palin explicitly waived her right to confidentiality in her complaint to the Personnel Board. But days later, the McCain-Palin campaign said the investigation would remain secret at the request of Petumenos.

“The governor will respect that request, but will explore the means by which confidentiality may be waived once the investigation is complete,” said Stapleton.

In two recent letters to Anchorage lawyer Meg Simonian, who was threatening a lawsuit to force more public scrutiny, Petumenos said the investigation had spread to other officials and other complaints.

“The Governor does not have the right, under such circumstances, to waive the right of confidentiality for others,” Petumenos wrote. But he tried to reassure Simonian about the eventual release of the investigation.

“The Board is … mindful of the public interest and the interest in the credibility to its processes that public disclosure would provide,” Petumenos said.

Simonian, a registered Democrat who said she is pursuing the matter out of personal interest, said Monday she wants Petumenos to tease out the parts of his report involving Palin, so that those parts of the upcoming Personnel Board meetings can be public — if, indeed, the board is discussing that topic.

“I’m in this bind where nobody knows what the board is doing,” Simonian said.

 On the investigation’s scope “… (I)t has become clear that the conduct of other state employees or officials besides the governor will be the subject of inquiry. The Independent Counsel, while investigating a matter referred to it, must necessarily follow all investigatory leads, and consider the conduct of any person involved in matters referred to it. Moreover, the statute requires referral to other agencies of pertinent matters and advice to the State government where practices or procedures merit review. Thus, the inquiry is not necessarily strictly limited to the Disclosure filed before it, and in any case, this matter has been consolidated with another complaint.”— Tim Petumenos, state Personnel Board independent counsel, in a Sept. 29 letter to Meg Simonian

Board’s Troopergate probe casts wider net

Who is the Real Sarah Palin: Evangelical Do-Gooder or She-Bush Megalomaniac?

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and husband Todd Palin

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and husband Todd Palin

At this point in the campaign are voters are still asking themselves who the candidates are in this presidential election?  Governor Sarah Palin, new to the national politic scene, has presented many faces to voters, both within her own Alaska state administration, as well as to the broader audience in the lower 48 states.  Joseph A. Palmero, writing on the Huffington Post today, considers some of the MANY facets to this vice-presidential candidate, and what “maverick” changes her possible election might bring to our government in Washington, D.C. Is Gov. Palin an evangelical do-gooder “hockey mom” with a handsome “First Dude” or a megalomaniac married to a Machiavellian insider, with both of them wielding power behind the scenes for their own personal agendas?

Alaska Governor and Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, while out on the hustings likes to ask her audiences: “Who is the real Barack Obama?” But it took a bipartisan commission of the Alaska State Legislature to give us a more accurate glimpse at the real Sarah Palin. The commission concluded that Governor Palin abused her powers in pressing subordinates to terminate a state trooper, Michael Wooten, who three years earlier had gone through a bitter divorce and child custody battle with Palin’s sister, Molly McCann. As a result, Trooper Wooten ended up on the wrong side of a family feud.

Governor Palin first claimed that she never did anything to try to get Wooten fired, but later changed her story admitting that she did try to terminate him but only because she and her relatives lived in fear of him. The independent investigation for the State Legislature, however, concluded otherwise: “Such claims of fear were not bona fide and were offered to provide cover for the Palins’ real motivation: to get Trooper Wooten fired for personal family reasons.” The 263-page report also points out that Palin had reduced the size of her security staff, which didn’t make sense if she and her family were “living in fear” of Wooten. A member of Governor Palin’s security detail stated: “I never really felt they were in fear of Mr. Wooten doing anything to them.”

The panel concluded that Governor Palin violated Alaska’s Executive Branch Ethics Act. According to the report, Palin “knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda.”

On July 11, 2008, Palin fired Alaska’s public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, because he resisted dismissing the trooper who was under his command. Monegan also testified that Palin was slashing the budget for his department because he resisted her efforts to can Wooten. Palin has changed her story several times on why she fired Monegan, who had a long and impressive record as an Alaskan public official. She first claimed she wanted to move Monegan to another position in the government, and then she insisted Monegan’s firing was performance related.

Brace yourself for the ear-shattering self-righteous anger blaring from the throats of Republican media shills as they denounce as “unfair” and “partisan” the Alaska State Legislature’s account. But it will be difficult to sell that story given that it was a 14-member Republican-dominated Legislative Council that voted unanimously in favor of the investigation long before John McCain picked Palin as his running mate.

Late in a campaign, one thing any presidential candidate does NOT want to see is the name of his VP choice in an official government report that confirms a violation of a state law with the word “ethics” in its title. Especially in Alaska where the Republican Party leadership is notoriously corrupt and cut from the same cloth as Jack Abramoff. In fact, one of the reasons Sarah Palin was catapulted to the governor’s office so quickly in the first place was because she was the last woman standing after the Republican leadership in Alaska imploded under multiple, overlapping corruption scandals. Now, with the commission’s report, even the “maverick reformer” is tainted.

Who is the real Sarah Palin?

Is Sarah Palin the evangelical, do-gooder “hockey mom” who millions of people believe is truthful and honest? Or is she a “She-Bush” megalomaniac who wields power behind the scenes by personal whim? And lies about it?

Is Sarah Palin the wife of an empty-headed, yet harmless “First Dude?” Or is she married to a Machiavellian insider who carried out her wishes with efficient dispatch in an attempt to settle petty personal scores?

And can we really trust someone who is closely associated with a person who used to belong to a radical Alaskan separatist group that committed Treason against the United States of America by urging Alaska to secede from the Union?

If Palin can go around the country inciting mobs to call for Barack Obama’s head after she grossly exaggerates his passing encounters with an aging ’60s radical, then we should be able to scrutinize her more recent abuses of power as Alaska governor.

But the most dangerous problem Palin poses is her apparent cluelessness about the kind of overt racism and potential violence she is stirring up. Her highly personalized attacks against Obama are inciting hatred among the Republican herd. The mainstream press might be contented to portray this as nothing out of the ordinary in a “tough” campaign, but this false “balance” in reportage excuses the seriousness of Palin’s attacks.

Palin is telling large crowds of white people in Red districts that Obama “pals around with terrorists” and she even implies that he may be a “terrorist” himself. Representative John Lewis of Georgia, who has been at the center of every civil rights battle for the past fifty years, thought the situation warranted writing a letter to John McCain calling for a more civil political dialogue. “As public figures with the power to influence and persuade,” Lewis wrote, “Senator McCain and Governor Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy.” McCain simply blew off Lewis’s legitimate concerns in favor of a predictable Republican counterattack. McCain threw the issue back on Lewis and demanded an apology from him for comparing McCain’s tactics to those of Alabama Governor George Wallace.

The Republicans are playing the “race card” now because that is all they have left. Right-wing talk radio, Fox News, Kenneth Blackwell, and the McCain-Palin campaign have all been accusing the activist group, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), of “voter fraud” and even playing a role in the subprime mortgage crisis. They have lumped Obama in with ACORN even though he never worked for the organization, and because ACORN is heavily identified with African-American urban communities the Rightwing is trying to tarnish ACORN’s current voter registration activities as being somehow “unfair” to white Republicans and use that charge to smear Obama. The allegations have been proven false but they remind me of D. W. Griffith’s 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation, glorifying the history of the Ku Klux Klan. In the film there are scenes of black “freedmen” in the Reconstruction South stuffing ballot boxes to rig elections against the white majority. The KKK bursts on the scene to render “justice” for the white victims of what today Rush Limbaugh would call “voter fraud.” It is noteworthy how little the tropes of racism have changed in America in the past hundred years.

The near total collapse of the financial system and the subsequent panic selling on Wall Street have repudiated everything for which the Republican Party stood for the last 30 years: Neo-cons wishing to use American military power to assert dominance and spread “democracy?” Forget it — We don’t have the money to do that anymore. War hawks who want U.S. troops to stay in Iraq until “victory” is attained? Forget about it — We don’t have $4 billion a month to throw at Iraq. Tax cutters and deregulators who promise that if we just strip away government our “ownership society” will efficiently distribute the bounty because that’s what markets do — Are you telling us a bad joke!?

The economic crisis upended the McCain campaign. In desperation, McCain has chosen to go negative 100 percent of the time. He sent forth his evangelical VPILF to hurl McCarthyite smears and race-baiting attacks at the African-American candidate. And she has done so in a way that only a person from a lily-white noncontiguous state could do.

But McCain’s is a failed “strategy.” The Bush Administration’s reckless disregard for governance has finally precipitated the humungous crisis many of us believed was lurking beneath the surface for many years now. He ran the United States in a manner akin to that of a tin-pot dictator in a banana republic. We are fortunate that the timing of the great financial collapse allows us to hold a referendum on the miserable years of misrule under George Walker Bush. “No” or “Si.”

Let the voting begin!

Who is the Real Sarah Palin?

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