Palin offers details about state investigation into Monegan firing

Posted: Wednesday, September 03, 2008

ANCHORAGE - John McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has asked the state's personnel board to review allegations that she improperly ordered the firing of the former public safety commissioner.

The move, which her office announced Tuesday, aims to blunt a probe already ordered by the Alaska Legislature. Palin is accused of firing Walt Monegan for failing to dismiss a trooper who went through a divorce with Palin's sister before she was governor.

In 2005, before Palin ran for office, the Palin family accused trooper Mike Wooten of drinking beer in his patrol car, illegally shooting a moose and firing a Taser at his 11-year-old stepson. Palin and her husband, Todd, also claimed Wooten threatened to kill Sarah Palin's father. Wooten, who hasn't returned numerous phone calls left by The Associated Press this week, was suspended over the allegations for five days in 2006 but still has his job.

In July, the legislature launched a $100,000 investigation into whether Palin abused her power in firing Monegan. The Alaska attorney general's office hired Anchorage attorney Thomas Van Flein to represent Palin and members of her staff in this investigation.

The new filing was accompanied by a 13-page accounting of Palin's version of the events, denying any abuse of power. Palin's attorney has long contended that the investigation belonged in the personnel system and not the Legislature.

"We fully welcome a fair inquiry into these allegations, and believe that the Personnel Board is statutorily mandated to oversee these proceedings," Stephen Branchflower, Palin's attorney said in a letter Monday.

Neither Van Flein nor state Sen. Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat heading the state probe, could be immediately reached for comment Tuesday. But earlier, in a letter to Van Flein, French said the Personnel Board oversees complaints brought against the governor under the state's ethics laws.

"While the Board may be engaged now in investigating an ethics complaint, that process is held confidential until the Board makes a finding of probable cause," he wrote.

Van Flein is representing Palin both personally and in her official capacity as governor.

Van Flein, who also previously represented the Palin family in another matter, said there was no conflict of interest in the dual representation arrangement. Van Flein is permitted to bill the state up to $95,000 for work in the current case.

Van Flein saw no problem with the arrangement. "Our representation is dual but the billing is not," Van Flein said before Palin's legal filing was disclosed Tuesday evening. "Matters involving a personal issue will not - and have not - been billed in the government contract."

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