Palin defends Colberg decision

Governor offers few details on attorney general's resignation

Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gov. Sarah Palin said it was former Attorney General Talis Colberg's decision to resign this week, but she refused to say whether the two of them had talked about it beforehand.

Matthew Daly / The Associated Press
Matthew Daly / The Associated Press

Colberg, who previously operated a private law practice in Palmer, near Palin's hometown of Wasilla, was picked to become the state's attorney general when Palin took office in 2006.

He went from handling small claims cases to navigating complicated political waters after Palin began running a national campaign for the vice-presidency.

Two weeks ago, Colberg faced hostile questioning from members of the House Judiciary Committee. The committee said they suspected Colberg had urged state witnesses to disregard legislative subpoenas during Troopergate, the investigation of Palin's firing of former Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan

Last week, the Alaska Senate found several of those subpoenaed witnesses in contempt for failing to comply with the subpoenas, including first gentleman Todd Palin, but no penalty was imposed.

At a press conference Wednesday at the Capitol, Palin said she hadn't forced Colberg to resign.

"It was his choice to resign," she said. "I was very happy with his work."

Palin declined to say whether she had had discussions with Colberg before he submitted his resignation, calling it a "personnel issue."

Colberg did not return a call to his Palmer residence.

Resisting legislative subpoenas, and suggesting that they were optional, may have hurt his relations with the Legislature.

Before the House Judiciary Committee, Colberg repeatedly said he was not challenging the authority of the Legislature to issue subpoenas, just the process it used in this case.

Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, who chaired the Legislative Council when it voted unanimously to investigate the allegations against Palin, said

"I thought his decision on the subpoenas was wrong ..., and the courts agreed with me, but I thought it also can be semi-destructive to the process because any attorney general relies on the power of a subpoena to get information in both civil and criminal cases," he said.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, defended the former attorney general, supporting Colberg's contention that he never told witnesses to disregard subpoenas.

"I know for a fact that at least one, or maybe more, had private outside legal counsel that advised them not to respond to those subpoenas because of the political maelstrom that was going on at the time," he said.

He praised Colberg's two years of service, as did Palin.

"He came in being the right person at the right time, from the private sector," she said.

"Our state government needed ethics reform, he brought that in without any kind of agenda that would have been tied to any special interest," she said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816.

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