State Sen. Hollis French said Monday he expects lawmakers will seek help from an independent investigator into the firing of former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.
French, D-Anchorage, is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but he said the investigator will likely be appointed by the Legislative Council, which is made up of seven members each from the House and Senate.
This presents an interesting twist as that committee is run by Sen. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, who was indicted by a federal grand jury on bribery and conspiracy charges.
Lawmakers say they understand that Monegan and other commissioners serve at will, meaning they can be fired by Gov. Sarah Palin at any time.
But they want to know if Monegan was let go because he refused to fire a trooper going through a messy divorce with Palin's sister.
Palin said late Monday she welcomes the investigation.
"I've said all along, 'Hold me accountable,"' she said. "I'm telling the truth when I say, there was never pressure put upon Commissioner Monegan.
"I did not ask him to hire or fire anyone in the two years that we worked together. If it takes an investigation to prove that to Alaskans, then so be it, certainly."
Last week, Monegan said he felt pressure from administration officials and Palin's husband about Trooper Mike Wooten.
Monegan said pressure came from those around Palin, including former Palin chief of staff Mike Tibbles, Department of Administration Commissioner Annette Kreitzer, and Frank Bailey, director of boards and commissions.
French said he's not sure who would be asked to testify.
"We need to look through e-mails; we need to look through phone records," French said. "We need to find out who did what. Right now, we are getting different answers."
Lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Monday for what they believe to be more pressing business: a vote on Palin's gas pipeline plan.
No one seemed to lose sight of that, despite a high-profile firing that seems to be dogging Palin, a seeming first blip in her two years in office, a long honeymoon period.
Palin has said she simply wanted to take the department in a new direction and pursued her right as governor to replace Monegan with Chuck Kopp.
When asked again if the firing had anything to do with Monegan's failure to terminate Wooten, Palin said: "No. What mattered to me was halfway through our term desiring more progressive, more active, more energetic results in this area of public safety. I don't believe he was pressured."
French said he discussed the options with House counterpart Judiciary Committee Chairman Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, over the weekend. Ramras said he will defer decisions to French.
"I want to be careful that we don't demagogue this issue," Ramras, an outspoken critic of Palin's Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, told The Associated Press. "This is serious. It's inappropriate to be too hot on this subject."
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