Wednesday, September 03, 2008

"Troopergate" Flares Anew; Former Commissioner Walt Monegan Releases Content Of E-Mails From Alaska Governor Sarah Palin To The Washington Post

The political controversy involving Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, which has been dubbed "Troopergate", flared anew on September 3rd, 2008, after the Washington Post reported that former Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan has shown the Post e-mails from Governor Sarah Palin which harshly criticized Alaska state troopers for failing to fire her former brother-in-law Trooper Mike Wooten, and ridiculed an internal affairs investigation into his conduct. Monegan has given copies of the e-mails to state ethics investigators to support his contention that he was dismissed for failing to fire Trooper Mike Wooten, who at the time was feuding with Palin's family. Excerpts from the story posted below.

Monegan showed The Post two e-mails he received from Palin, but declined to give copies. The first e-mail came on February 7th, 2007, after the governor's husband, Todd, met with Monegan to press the case for disciplinary action against Wooten. Palin's family had accused the trooper of shooting a cow moose without a permit, Tasering his stepson, and drinking while driving a trooper vehicle. After her husband met with Monegan, Palin followed up with a phone call to Monegan.

In the e-mail sent a few weeks later, Palin encouraged Monegan to testify for a bill that would require 99-year sentences for police officers found guilty of murder. "For police officers to violate the public trust is a grave, grave violation -- in my opinion. We have too many examples lately of cops and troopers who violate the public trust DPS has come across as merely turning a blind eye or protecting that officer, seemingly 'for the good of the brotherhood'."

Some excerpts from the e-mails themselves:

- "This trooper is still out on the street, in fact he's been promoted," said the Feb. 7, 2007, e-mail sent from Palin's personal Yahoo account and written to give Monegan permission to speak on a violent-crime bill before the state legislature.

- "It was a joke, the whole year long 'investigation' of him," the e-mail said. "This is the same trooper who's out there today telling people the new administration is going to destroy the trooper organization, and that he'd 'never work for that b****', Palin'.)"

Asked about the e-mails, Palin's campaign spokeswoman Maria Comella said that Palin was merely alerting officials to potential threats to her family and that there is no evidence that Palin ever ordered Wooten to be fired.

Palin is under investigation by a bipartisan state legislative body that was authorized last month to look into whether Palin pressured Monegan to force Wooten from the state police force and whether his failure to do so led to his dismissal. Palin had promised to cooperate with the legislative inquiry, but this week she hired a lawyer to fight to move the case to the jurisdiction of the state personnel board, which Palin appoints. Her attorney, Thomas V. Van Flein, challenged the jurisdiction of Stephen Branchflower, the retired prosecutor hired to investigate and report back to the legislature by the last week of October.

When Palin entered the governor's office in late 2006, Wooten already had been reprimanded, reassigned and suspended for five days for incidents reported by Palin's family. They had filed complaints in April 2005 after her younger sister's marriage fell apart and the couple battled in a bitter child-custody dispute. Palin has said previously that she discussed Wooten with Monegan only in the context of security concerns for the family. Monegan has said that Palin never directly told him to fire Wooten but that the message was clearly conveyed through repeated messages from Palin, her husband and three members of her Cabinet. View all previous posts on this blog for more background information.

No specific reaction yet from the Anchorage Daily News, KTUU Channel 2, or Andrew Halcro's blog. Just prior to going off the air at 5:00 P.M. Alaska time, KFQD conservative shock jock Dan Fagan read parts of the Post story over the air and speculated on the possibility that this might be the "smoking gun". That may be premature at the moment, but it tends to fly in the face of Palin's previous assertion that she personally applied no "pressure" on Monegan, but was done only by "overzealous" subordinates.

I will update this post later with Alaska media links when they become available.

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