Monday, July 14, 2008

Governor Sarah Palin Gives Alaska Department Of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan The Bum's Rush

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

On Friday July 11th, 2008, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin abruptly - and I do mean ABRUPTLY - removed Walt Monegan (pictured at left) from his position as Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. And to add insult to injury, Palin didn't even tell him personally - she dumped the job on her chief of staff. Official explanations continue to be somewhat lame. Full story published by the Anchorage Daily News, the ADN's Alaska Politics blog, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, and aired by KTUU Channel 2 and KTVA Channel 11. The Voice Of The Times also weighed in, calling the firing "tasteless".

Monegan said he returned from working with wildlife troopers in Bristol Bay to Anchorage for the Friday meeting with Palin's acting chief of staff Mike Nizich. He figured they'd be talking about security for the upcoming governor's picnics. Instead, he was offered a new job as executive director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, and told he couldn't keep his old one.

"When we sat down, (Nizich) started discussing how the governor wanted to utilize my expertise and enthusiasm to help people in rural areas and the Bush by becoming the executive director of the ABC Board," Monegan said. "I said, 'What's this mean ... I guess I'm no longer commissioner?' He said, 'That's correct.' " Later, Monegan told the media that the news came out of the blue, and stated that Governor Palin had never hinted that she was upset with him for any reason.

Unfortunately, Governor Palin has been very cryptic about the reasons. She sent her spokeswoman Sharon Leighow out with very little to give the media. Leighow said the governor is now at the halfway point of her term and it's natural for her to make changes, although she could not specify the changes. She also stated that Palin wanted the public safety department headed in a new direction. "The governor feels that the department of public safety could be better served under new management," Leighow said. She also added that the governor felt Monegan, originally from the small village of Nyac, would have been an excellent choice as ABC Director to “address the alcohol crisis in rural communities,” Leighow also denied rumours that DPS was being singled out for cuts in public funding, claiming the Governor Palin wants to make cuts across the board. She also claims the governor wants to fully fund trooper positions.

But John Cyr, executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association, which represents the Alaska State Troopers, opines that it's a battle over funding. Palin has called for cuts to the public safety budget, while Monegan wanted more troopers. Cyr also said that under Monegan, the troopers were happy with DPS leadership for the first time in years. Contrast that with the abysmal morale existing in the Department of Corrections under Joe Schmidt's leadership; earlier this year, the Alaska Correctional Officers Association (ACOA) voted no-confidence in Schmidt's leadership, yet Palin's old school chum remains as snug as a bug on rug in the Palin entourage.

This is not the first time Monegan has lost his job. In 2006, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich asked him to leave his post as Anchorage police chief early, although Monegan was willing to stay on another year, capping a 33-year career with APD. At the time, Begich had just won re-election and was restructuring department leadership. Then in 2006, shortly after her election, Governor Palin appointed Monegan as commissioner of public safety.

Monegan reacted with class. On the way out, he said he's informed the administration of a few things that should not be ignored, including the current economic situation in Alaska's rural communities, where he believes poor fishing returns could potentially cause social unrest. "Thefts increase. Domestic violence increases. When you apply a lot of stress on a situation, money and fuel oil are an absolute hope at some point. And unless we band together as a government to address it head on it could be very bad," he said. He also sent out a classy e-mail to all DPS employees, a copy of which is posted on Alaska Politics, expressing his personal confidence in John Glass's ability to lead the department.

For now, deputy public safety commissioner John Glass, a former Wasilla police chief, has become the interim commissioner. Governor Palin plans to announce a new commissioner, selected from a short list of candidates, later this week. It was not revealed whether or not Glass is on the short list. Update: On July 14th, Palin announced the appointment of Kenai police chief Charles Kopp to the job.

This isn't the first time that Sarah Palin has clashed with a top cop. Back in 1996, in the first year of her first term as mayor of Wasilla, she fired then-police chief Irl Stambaugh, claiming he was "uncooperative" and didn't want to support her in taking the city where it should go. "Uncooperative" may be charitable; as I recall, Stambaugh, a part of Wasilla's old guard led by former mayor John Stein, was virtually insubordinate, almost daring her to fire him. She took the dare. But back then, there was unmistakeable provocation. And she did it to his face.

This time, the provocation is questionable. And she didn't do it to Monegan's face. Perhaps the 85 percent approvable rating is giving her a big head. But if you look at the public comments appended to the Daily News story, you'd never know she had a 85 percent approval rating. The overwhelming majority of respondents disapprove of the treatment Palin's meted out to Monegan.

Cinderella better take care to make sure her coach doesn't turn into a pumpkin before its time. Alaskans can be most unforgiving of those who run afoul of them. Just ask Frank Murkowski.


  1. George W.armonger9/01/2008 10:43 AM

    REVOLUTION is the Solution!!!

    "God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.... And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.... The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." - Thomas Jefferson, in letter to William S. Smith, 1787

    "When peaceful revolution is impossible, violent revolution is inevitable." - John F. Kennedy