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.
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