Palin foes: Monegan matter far from over

Administration under investigation in firing of ex-commissioner

Posted: Sunday, August 31, 2008

Political foes of Gov. Sarah Palin said there are plenty of chapters still to be written in the story of her July dismissal of former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.

Palin and her administration are under investigation by a retired prosecutor hired by the state Legislature to determine if she or others improperly tried to pressure Monegan to fire her estranged former brother-in-law, state trooper Mike Wooten, and then fired Monegan after he refused.

As Republican presidential candidate John McCain's pick as running mate, Palin now faces greater scrutiny over the Monegan firing from the rest of the country, who knew little about Palin prior to last week.

"From what my sources tell me, this is not going to wind up pretty for the governor," said Andrew Halcro, who lost to Palin in the 2006 gubernatorial race and first reported on his personal blog the allegations that Monegan was fired because of his refusal to fire Wooten.

Before she was governor, Palin and her family complained to state troopers about Wooten's behavior, alleging he abused his position as a trooper, committed drinking violations, used a Taser on his 10-year-old stepson and illegally shot a moose. A subsequent investigation found much of the claims against Wooten were unsubstantiated, and others, including the Taser and moose shooting incidents, were true.

Wooten was suspended for five days in 2006 as a result.

Palin has steadfastly denied abusing her role as governor to target Wooten, and says she fired Monegan for reasons unrelated to her former brother-in-law. But she suspended an aide who, according to the governor, gave the perception of applying undue pressure to have Wooten fired during a recorded phone call with a state trooper lieutenant.

During the phone call, which the governor made public, Director of Boards Commissioner Frank Bailey references Wooten's personnel file. In response, the Public Safety Employees Association, which represents the state troopers, is looking into any possible breaches of confidential records, including public employee personnel files.

John Cyr, the executive director of PSEA, said his organization has filed an open records request with the state for copies of any documents that involve the union's contract negotiations or any of its members.

Halcro said that from what he's heard, it's clear that Palin has been dishonest to the public regarding Monegan's firing. Still, he said, Palin is politically astute and any potential fallout at a national level is unclear.

"I have learned one thing ... you never underestimate her," Halcro said. Palin has a way of winning people over, he added.

Juneau Republican Chairman Ben Brown said the Monegan issue is a "tempest in the teapot" and Palin will survive any heightened scrutiny. Brown, who said he first met Palin when she was mayor of Wasilla, said the rest of the country will soon be impressed with the governor's energetic personality.

"She's a very likable, personable individual," Brown said. "Americans are going to come to like her just as Alaskans have come to like her."

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.



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