Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Criticism Mounting Over Governor Sarah Palin's Blindsiding Of Former Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan

Note: Click HERE to read all posts about the Monegan firing. The most recent post will appear first.

The bloom is definitely falling off the rose in Alaska, and the Palin honeymoon may be finally wearing off. "Cinderella" Palin's coach isn't quite turning back into a pumpkin yet, but the tires are going flat.

Criticism of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's mishandling of the termination of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan continues to build, while the Governor herself is off flitting about at another Governor's Conference. Yes, she opportunistically dumped the dirty job on her chief of staff on Friday July 11th, knowing full well she could spend the weekend at the Governor's Conference in Philadelphia (read Andrew Halcro's analysis of Palin's doppelganger behavior at this conference) hiding from the Alaska media and from accountability. And on July 15th, 2008, both the Anchorage Daily News and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner struck - and struck hard, strongly criticizing Palin's blindsiding of Monegan.

The Anchorage Daily News assault came from a guest columnist, John Cyr, who is the director of the state's Public Safety Employees Association (PSEA), which represents the Alaska State Troopers. His full column can be read HERE.

Cyr starts out by explaining the beneficial effects of Monegan's tenure. For the first time in years, PSEA membership - troopers, municipal officers, and airport police and firefighters - were beginning to believe that there was a commissioner at the helm who had a clear understanding of what it means to put a bulletproof vest on everyday and go into harm's way. Monegan understood the problems attendant to an Alaska State Trooper contingent seriously understaffed. Monegan's greatest strength was statewide perspective.

Then Cyr highlights some of our statewide crime statistics, such as being ranked No. 1 in forcible rape, No. 3 in aggravated assault, 15th in vehicle theft and 22nd in murder and manslaughter, and questions why Palin would want to cut $2.5 million from the Alaska State Troopers budget during a time when we have billions in surplus. Cyr gives the impression that Palin fired Monegan because he opposed cutting the troopers' budget. This is characterized as odd coming from a governor who ran on a platform of public safety.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner assault, which can be read in full HERE, originated in house. In summary, the News-Miner characterizes Palin's handling of the situations as "unacceptable". They believe this was a whimsical move on her part, and they particularly question the official explanation. What exactly does Governor Palin mean by "taking the DPS in a new direction"? What specifically was wrong with the old direction, and why couldn't Walt Monegan be allowed the opportunity to "take it in a new direction"? And just how could DPS be better served under new management? None of these questions have been answered. And it's not the Governor's spokeswoman Sharon Leighow who's at fault. Leighow was dealt a lousy hand to play by her boss and she played it as skillfully and professionally as possible (I'll bet Leighow wishes she was still at KFQD, putting up with Dan Fagan's insults).

The News-Miner believes Monegan may have been telling Palin things she didn't want to hear.

And finally, the News-Miner, like so many other people statewide, takes issue with the "discourteous" manner in which the job was executed. We all acknowledge that a Commissioner's job is "at will" employment; a Commissioner may be relieved by the Governor at any time and for any reason. But to blindside the guy - and worse yet, not do it to his face, but turn it over to a flunkie - bogus and unprofessional. And attempting to throw Monegan a small bone by offering him the position of executive director of the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board seemed lame. Bottom line - the News-Miner believes the Governor hasn't been straightforward, and I very much share this belief.

Complicating this issue is the revelation on July 15th that Monegan's replacement, former Kenai Police Chief Charles Kopp (background story published by the Peninsula Clarion), has an allegation of sexual harassment on his record. The incident has long since been resolved, and the target of the harassment is not making an issue of it. Under normal circumstances, this would be anecdotal. But within the context of Monegan's murky departure, it simply adds to the appearance of incompetency by the Palin administration. Is anyone actually in charge in Juneau?

Governor Palin has been cruising along at an 85 percent approval rating for so long she probable began thinking she was infallible. But this fiasco has made an impression on Alaskans; I've seen much more criticism of her on discussion forums than in the past. And a poll being run by the Kenai-based Peninsula Clarion shows her support beginning to noticeably erode for the first time. In response to the poll question "Should Sarah Palin become VP", only 56 percent of the 125 respondents so far say Yes; 44 percent say No.

This can happen to anyone. Despite the fact that most people have been sucking up to Sarah Palin during her political career, she has remained relatively unassuming in her public persona. But when you're constantly told how great you are, you invariably get a swelled ego, and this is what's happened to Governor Palin.

What does she need to do to address the public criticism? First, she needs to disclose exactly why she turned Walt Monegan loose, and tell us exactly where she wants DPS to go. Second, she should explain why it is necessary to cut the troopers' budget by $2.5 million when we have billions in surplus, the troopers are understaffed, and some crime rates are too high.

And finally, she should publicly take herself out of the race to become John McCain's running mate. Palin's problems began after she was seriously discussed as a VP possibility. I think she got stars in her eyes, and it has impaired her ability to govern. Sarah Palin is no more qualified to be vice-president than Barack Obama is to be president. Two terms as mayor of a town of 9,000 people and 18 months in the governor's mansion does not qualify you to be a heartbeat away from the red phone and the nuclear football. Sarah Palin was elected to serve as governor, and as governor she should remain.


  1. And here is why:

  2. virginia poole10/29/2008 5:04 PM

    This dismissal leaves far too many unanswered questions. A full impartial inquiry should be implemented forthwith. It is too long -30th October now.

    As to the cost of her clothes and makup in just a few weeks, why so much waste of money? Is she so badly dressed, and ugly? This outrageous cost to all the people of the USA will presumably continue whilst she is in office, if elected.

    It astonishes me and all our acquaintances as to why Sen. McCain would choose a person with so little federal and international experience. AND, someone who sounds so terrible, a veritable screech owl.