Report clears Palin in Troopergate

Probe contradicts special counsel, finds no abuse of power in effort to fire former brother-in-law

November 04, 2008|By McClatchy-Tribune

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -

A new report released yesterday - hours before the polls open on Election Day - exonerates Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in the Troopergate controversy.

The investigation sanctioned by the state Personnel Board is the second into whether Palin violated state ethics law in firing her public safety commissioner, and it contradicts the earlier findings of a special counsel hired by the state Legislature.

Both investigations found that Palin was within her rights to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.

But the new report says the Legislature's investigator was wrong in concluding that Palin abused her power by allowing aides and her husband, Todd, to press Monegan and others to dismiss her former brother-in-law, Trooper Mike Wooten.

Palin was accused of firing Monegan after Wooten stayed on the job.

The Palins have said that Wooten was a loose cannon who had used a Taser on his stepson, drank beer in his patrol car and threatened Palin's father, and that their complaints that he should not be on the force were justified.

The matter became sharply politicized after Palin was announced as Republican presidential candidate John McCain's running mate.

The report, released at a news conference yesterday afternoon at the Hotel Captain Cook, presents the findings and recommendations of Anchorage lawyer Timothy Petumenos, who was hired as an independent counsel for the Personnel Board to examine several complaints against Palin.

In his report, Petumenos wrote that the Legislature's special counsel, former State Prosecutor Steve Branchflower, used the wrong state law as the basis for his conclusions and misconstrued the evidence.

His findings and recommendations include:

* There is no cause to believe that Palin violated state ethics law in deciding to dismiss Monegan as public safety commissioner.

* There is no cause to believe that Palin violated state ethics law in connection with Wooten.

* There is no cause to believe that any other state official violated the ethics act.

* There is no basis to conduct a hearing to "address reputational harm," as requested by Monegan.

* The state needs to address the issue of using private e-mail for government work and to examine how records are kept in the governor's office. Palin used her Yahoo e-mail account for state business until it was hacked.

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