Tag Archives: Mike Nizich

Gov. Palin’s Vice Presidential Quest Costs Alaskan Taxpayers Over $1,000 a Day

In the Anchorage Daily News this morning it was reported that Governor Sarah Palin is traveling with her Alaskan office director, Kris Perry, so that Gov. Palin can run the State of Alaska AND campaign for Vice President of the United States at the same time.  Though the exact costs of Ms. Perry’s travels with Gov. Palin are not currently known, estimates are at over $1,000 a day, for which Alaskan taxpayers are footing the bill.  These costs could have been avoid had Gov. Palin temporarily turned over daily operations to Alaska’s lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell.

Is this something Alaskans are comfortable with paying for in light of our current economic crisis?  Shouldn’t the costs of Perry accompanying Gov. Palin be paid for by the McCain-Palin campaign instead of the State of Alaska?  And isn’t the job of governor a full-time position requiring more than ‘phoning it in’ so to speak?  Isn’t campaigning for Vice President of the United States of America MORE than a full-time job?  And what about Gov. Palin’s attention to the legal matters involved in her defense of ethics violations with the second Troopergate investigation before the Alaska Personnel Board, isn’t that at the very least a part-time job?  And not to be sexist, but isn’t being a mother of five, including a new baby, also more than a full-time position? 

While it is possible for a person with an A-type personality to multitask more than one responsibility at a time, doesn’t that then sometimes compromise the quality of the work done?  And last time we checked, aren’t there only 24 hours in a day?

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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

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s Ethics Investigation: True Lies

Alaska State Senate President Lyda Green

Alaska State Senate President Lyda Green

Alaskans are becoming increasingly frustrated by the disregard of the “Troopergate” investigation shown by Governor Sarah Palin and the McCain presidential campaign staff who have descended on the state.  In a September 25, 2008 article for the Anchorage Press by Brendan Joel Kelley, Alaska Republican Attorney General Talis Colberg is on vacation to parts unknown while Ed O’Callaghan and Meg Stapleton continue to block the investigation. 

 

Attorney General Colberg (right) stated in a letter September 16 that ten state employees would not be cooperate with their subpoenas.  Gov. Palin’s husband Todd Palin, who has also been subpoenaed, did not appear for his scheduled testimony last week.  Although advising witnesses not to appear when subpoenaed is a clear violation of the law … Alaska Statute 11.56.545 … this doesn’t seem to have stopped someone (Colberg? O’Callaghan?) from doing just that. 

Alaska State Senate President Lyda Green expressed great concern as to the steamroller tactics of the McCain campaign in taking over what was clearly an internal state government ethics investigation.  Due to the difficulties in reconvening the state legislature for a special session to take some action in the investigation, it would appear at this point that “Troopergate” is unlikely to be resolved until after the national presidential election is held in November.

Whether or not the Republican presidential ticket wins in November, Alaskans are already living in McCainistan. It seems Governor Palin and Attorney General Talis Colberg have simply abdicated their positions, leaving operatives from the McCain campaign in charge of the executive branch (including the Department of Law) while attempting to undermine the authority of the legislative branch.

As one watches Governor Palin stumble through the three interviews she’s done since being announced as John McCain’s vice presidential running mate, and as one reads the reports in the national media of Palin being sequestered far away from inquisitive reporters, and as one hears that requests for information about both her record as governor for the past 21 months and the legislative investigation into whether she improperly dismissed former Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan are being shunted to the McCain campaign, it’s a bit jaw-dropping to attend one of the “truth squad” pressers and repeatedly hear that Palin is “an open book.” Actually it’s worse than jaw-dropping: It’s insulting. A visibly frustrated Sean Cockerham of the Anchorage Daily News expressed what most in the room were thinking at Tuesday’s installment of the Palin “truth squad” charade: “[Governor Palin] says she’s an open book, she wants her story to be told, then why does she not speak to the press?”

While Attorney General Talis Colberg is “vacationing” somewhere in the Midwest, we’re treated to a shrill performance by former Palin spokesperson Meg Stapleton, who glances up from her script occasionally to sneer smugly at the reporters in the room (see for yourself in video posted at ADN’s Alaska Politics blog).

Then, once she’s read her prepared statement, Ed O’Callaghan, until recently co-chief of the terrorism and national security unit of the U.S. attorney’s office in New York, takes questions, while Stapleton gazes dreamily at him, lips pursed.

O’Callaghan is billed as a McCain campaign spokesman, but why would a Justice Department prosecutor quit his job and fly to Alaska to be a mere flack? Because, by his own admission, he’s also advising Thomas Van Flein, an Anchorage lawyer representing the Palins in the Wootengate inquiry. Van Flein was originally retained by Alaska’s Department of Law; the McCain camp says that that contract has been terminated. Meanwhile, O’Callaghan can’t-or won’t-answer to what extent attorneys from the McCain campaign are advising the Department of Law.

Since Palin was named to the Republican ticket, Van Flein (with the counsel of O’Callaghan and another “volunteer” attorney that the Truthers declined to name) has asserted that the legislature has no authority to investigate the dismissal of Monegan, and that the state’s Personnel Board-which answers to the governor-has jurisdiction over such matters.

“Today, we reiterate and emphasize the ongoing cooperation in the truly independent investigation involving the only legal forum in the state for the Monegan inquiry,” Stapleton said Monday. “As you know, that is the Personnel Board.”

Except that we don’t know that. And that was never asserted prior to Palin’s August 29 selection by McCain as his running mate.

And that’s not the least of the inaccuracies and inconsistencies being peddled by Stapleton and O’Callaghan.

When Stapleton alleged that Senator Hollis French (D-Anchorage) decided not to subpoena Palin’s former chief of staff Mike Tibbles, KTUU’s Jason Moore pointed out that it was actually Fairbanks Republican Representative Jay Ramras that requested Tibbles not be subpoenaed. Following that report on KTUU, Stapleton called Moore’s wife and told her that Moore was calling Stapleton and O’Callaghan liars, then followed up by calling KTUU news director Steve Mac Donald to complain.

In trying to paint Commissioner Monegan as a rogue, the Truthers alleged that Monegan had sought to go to Washington, D.C. in July to seek federal funds to fight sexual violence in Alaska without the administration’s approval (the campaign called this “the final straw”). However, ABC News unearthed the travel authorization-signed by Palin’s chief of staff Mike Nizich-authorizing Monegan to go to Washington to attend a meeting with Senator Lisa Murkowski.

Now Attorney General Colberg is missing in action after writing a letter on September 16 advising Legislative Council chair Senator Kim Elton (D-Juneau) that ten state employees would not cooperate with the subpoenas that the Senate Judiciary issued. Three, including Todd Palin, failed to show up last week, and the other seven are due to appear before the House Judiciary Committee this Friday.

It’s worth noting that if Colberg-or O’Callaghan-advised any of the subpoenaed witnesses not to appear, it appears to violate Alaska Statute 11.56.545, which makes it a class A misdemeanor to knowingly induce a witness to be absent from an “official proceeding,” which is defined as a “proceeding heard before a legislative, judicial, administrative, or other governmental body or official authorized to hear evidence under oath.”

Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) has asked the state troopers to investigate whether witness tampering has occurred. “We’re looking at the statutes and the facts,” he says. “It’s pretty serious charges, so we’re not going to say that we know who’s broken the law.”

In Gara’s letter to Colonel Audie Holloway, he writes, “I do not know whether it is advice from staff for the McCain campaign, state counsel, private cousel, or from others, or whether these witnesses may have [chosen not to appear] independently of advice or suggestions from third persons. But it seems a witness would not risk the possible jail time that comes with the violations of a subpoena without advice of others.”

State Senate President Lyda Green (R-Wasilla) is exploring what actions the legislature can take at this point as well. “Reconvening the senate is one of the options,” she says. “I have an idea this will roll over into the next legislative year, and I have an idea that to try to reconvene the legislature after two rather long special sessions would be very difficult.”

Green says she welcomes the presence of national campaigns here in Alaska, but “I’m very concerned that [the McCain campaign has] become the spokesperson for the governor and her husband and issues concerning an Alaska legislature’s special investigator. I do feel the national Republican campaign is asserting way too much influence. It’s my understanding that the other day someone called the governor’s office to inquire about [the Monegan investigation] and they were given the McCain campaign number. That’s, to me, a very questionable use. I don’t know that it’s unethical, illegal, or improper, but to me it’s a very strange tie, since generally candidates are cautioned to keep your office and your campaign totally separate.”

The McCain campaign and Van Flein have insisted that Monegan and Stephen Branchflower, the investigator hired by the legislature to pursue the inquiry, are friends. But there is evidence to the contrary. “Steve Branchflower and Walt Monegan, if anything, probably have an adversarial relationship,” Senator Green says.

She’s referring to the 2002 murder of retired Commissioner of Public Safety Glenn Godfrey, when a former girlfriend of Godfrey’s, Karen Brand, entered the home, killed Glenn Godfrey, shot Godfrey’s wife Patricia four times, and then killed herself. Patricia Godfrey called 911, but it took police and medical personnel nearly an hour to find the Godfrey’s Eagle River home. Walt Monegan was the chief of the Anchorage Police Department at the time.

Patricia Godfrey filed a complaint with the Office of Victim’s Rights, whose director at the time was Stephen Branchflower. Branchflower’s subsequent investigation and report found that the APD, under Monegan’s reign, violated the victims’ rights by releasing confidential information about them at a press conference, and that APD’s delayed emergency response violated Patricia Godfrey’s right to immediate medical assistance, and that the delayed response was not an isolated event for the APD under Monegan’s watch.

On Tuesday, in a combative session with reporters, Stapleton and O’Callaghan said that Governor Palin-the “open book”-would be cooperating with the Personnel Board’s investigator, Timothy Petumenos, and that both Todd and Sarah Palin were working on scheduling interviews with Petumenos.

But this assertion that the Personnel Board investigation-launched suddenly after Palin’s nomination-is valid and nonpartisan, while the legislature’s investigation is irrevocably tainted by partisanship, is, quite simply, bullshit.

Last week, two lawsuits-one from five state legislators-were filed seeking to dismiss the Legislative Council’s investigation on grounds that it was partisan (never mind that Republican legislators were among those who’ve voted in favor of both the initial investigation and the subpoenas that it issued).

On Tuesday, came news that the Legislative Council has hired an attorney to file their own suit, this one asking the courts to quash those two lawsuits. In a press release from the office of attorney Peter Maasen, who’s representing the Council, the obvious is finally stated: “The complaints suggest that Alaska legislators with open political views should be prohibited from participating in any legislative function that might-might-reflect badly on Governor Palin, at least until the national election is over.

“The Alaska legislature is comprised of people with open political views, both Republican and Democrat. That does not disqualify them from legislative functions, not even during election season, and not even if powerful and increasingly heavy-handed national interests wish it were otherwise.”

True Lies

‘Commander’ Palin and the Alaska National Guard

The Anchorage Daily News published an article by George Bryson on September 3, 2008, in which Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s actual experience in commanding the Alaska National Guard is examined.

When presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain introduced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate last Friday, the Arizona senator emphasized her role as the commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard.

Later, when questions were raised about Palin’s lack of experience in national and international affairs, the McCain campaign pointed again to her military command experience as governor. Some reporters have tried to follow up.

“Can you tell me one decision that she made as commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard?” CNN journalist Campbell Brown asked Monday while interviewing McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds. “Just one?”

Bounds couldn’t, because Palin has never personally ordered the state guard to do anything.

However, the governor has no command authority overseas or anywhere in the United States other than Alaska, said Maj. Gen. Craig Campbell, the service commander of the Alaska National Guard.

“When members of the National Guard are federalized, they work for the president,” Campbell said Wednesday. “It’s not just overseas. They could be federalized to go to other states or they could even be federalized in the state.”

Occasions in which Palin retains command authority over the 4,200-member Alaska National Guard are whenever the Guard responds to in-state natural disasters and civic emergencies, said Campbell, who also serves as the commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Some examples?

“We’ve deployed individuals in state service all over the state under Sarah Palin,” he said. “We had defense men down in Seward for the (Mount) Marathon run doing security.

“Out west and northwest we had erosion problems, and the National Guard was involved in some of the protection out there. About three days ago, the Army National Guard picked up a lady from Little Diomede (Island) . . . at the request of state troopers.”

Did Palin directly approve each of those activities?

No, Campbell said. The governor has granted him the authority to act on his own in most cases, including life-or-death emergencies – when a quick response is required – and minor day-to-day operations.

“Some authorities have been given to me that she has acknowledged that I can execute,” he said. “For others I have to ask her each time.”

The recent decision to deploy a C-17 cargo plane from the Alaska Air National Guard to Louisiana to assist during the Hurricane Gustav response was an occasion in which Campbell briefed the governor’s office and sought its approval, he said. Chief of Staff Mike Nizich signed off on it.

‘Commander’ Palin and the Alaska National Guard

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin exits a jet at the Life Support Area, Kuwait with Maj. Gen. Michael Sumrall, assistant to the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff for National Guard matters. Palin visited the Soldiers of 3rd Battalion 297th Infantry Regiment Alaska National Guard to learn about their mission in Kuwait.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin exits a jet at the Life Support Area, Kuwait with Maj. Gen. Michael Sumrall, assistant to the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff for National Guard matters. Palin visited the Soldiers of 3rd Battalion 297th Infantry Regiment Alaska National Guard to learn about their mission in Kuwait.