For background, click HERE to view all previous posts on this blog about this situation, beginning with the most recent. Click HERE to visit Andrew Halcro's blog; nearly all his recent posts have been about this situation.
Governor Sarah Palin launched her first serious damage control operation on July 19th, 2008 when she unveiled her promised "new direction" for the Alaska Department of Public Safety (DPS). The Anchorage Daily News published a brief cover story, and ADN's Alaska Politics blog posted the full statement by Governor Palin.
Expressing her full confidence in new DPS Commissioner Charles Kopp, Governor Palin outlined her proposal for DPS. Here are the highlights:
- Efficiently using trooper resources and filling vacancies. One example is to reclassify existing open trooper job positions to job classes (Court Services and investigative support positions) that are more easily filled, allowing troopers to carrying out a full range of public safety services.
- Comprehensively review the issues of alcohol and drug abuse and crime, particularly in rural Alaska. Additionally, consider adding manpower for alcohol and drug interdiction efforts.
- Cooperatively work with state and federal agencies and other entities as part of a multi-agency effort that focuses on outreach, education, treatment and prevention, and law enforcement as part of an answer to alcohol and drug abuse prevention problems in rural Alaska.
- Establish strong lateral communications between departments to accomplish the mission of each department and to assist those agencies in meeting their missions.
- Establish a recruiting effort focusing on returning National Guard troops and other military service members, VPSOs and Alaska Natives.
- Increase training for troopers and VPSOs.
- Propose legislation that will slow the flow of alcohol to rural Alaska, particularly communities that have voted to restrict alcohol. One example would be reducing the amount of alcohol that can be shipped by written orders into rural Alaska.
The official DPS Budget Summary offers additional information:
(1). The total DPS allocation for 2009 is $191,835,500. This is for both operating and capital budgets combined, and represents both state and supplemental federal funding.
(2). A total of 395 State Trooper positions are funded. Fifty-six positions are currently vacant.
(3). Governor Palin set a savings target of $20 million for the FY2009 operating budget for all state agencies. The DPS savings target is $2.3 million. Governor Palin directed all state agencies to look for savings in FY2009 by finding efficiencies and implementing changes in business processes and practices that could ultimately result in some savings. But she insists that she has NOT asked agencies to cut services or positions, nor was there any intent to make agencies take drastic steps to achieve their targets that would hurt the mission of the department.
And it's point #3 that could have fueled a budget dispute between Governor Palin and Walt Monegan. Monegan may have gotten the impression that Palin was forcing the issue. And perhaps her underlings may have browbeaten Monegan in Palin's name.
However, some people express doubt that the battle was over the budget. They point to a December 2007 DPS strategic plan authored by Monegan, and claim that there are many similarities between it and Palin's "new direction". This further fuels speculation that the dispute between Palin and Monegan was about other issues, in particular, the disposition of Trooper Mike Wooten.
It's the issue of Trooper Wooten which preoccupies a leading Palin advocate, Adam Brickley. On his Palinforvp blog, Brickley produced a couple of YouTube videos in defense of Palin in this post. In these videos, he focuses almost exclusively on what is called "Document 5" (all these documents are posted on the KTVA Channel 11 website). This document is the Memo of Findings against Trooper Wooten and the disposition. He cites the five findings which were sustained, but then goes on to deprecate the fact that the majority of findings were either Not Sustained or Unfounded, saying that it doesn't mean they didn't occur. However, in the eyes of the law, a finding of Not Sustained or Unfounded does mean that they were Not Provable, and under our system of the presumption of innocence, Not Provable means, for all intents and purposes, that they did not occur. This strongly implies that Sarah Palin wasn't merely seeking justice; she may have fallen for the trap of launching a vendetta against Wooten in her otherwise commendable desire to look after her sister's welfare. In other words, perhaps the Troopers, in their internal investigations, viewed many of the complaints as efforts by the Palin family to use the Troopers as a referee for their family feud rather than as a legitimate law enforcement resource.
And Adam Brickley can hardly be considered impartial. Not only is he a John McCain partisan, but, by running a Palin for VP website for about six months now, is a star-struck pro-Palin partisan to the extreme. One could even consider him the quintessential "Palinbot". Brickley's attachment towards Palin appears strictly political and ideological; not only is there no evidence of any Oedipal feelings towards Palin on his part, but he's worked hard to keep his blog free of any prurient comments which might speculate on Governor Palin's physical attributes. But the bottom line is that his avid pro-Palin partisanship skews his discourse towards the Palin side and away from contrasting viewpoints. He certainly fails to explain why we should accept Palin's recollection of events over Monegan's version.
In the final analysis, Governor Palin's new plan seems to be a promising start towards damage control and regaining the bruised confidence of Alaskans. Nevertheless, the State Senate seems bound and determined to launch an independent investigation. A cloud will continue to hang over the Palin Administration until we find out whose recollection of events was more accurate - Sarah Palin or Walt Monegan.