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Elton criticizes Palin's response to subpoenas

Declining support for 'Troopergate' probe could delay it until after Election Day

Posted: Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, is responding angrily to the Palin administration for breaking a deal to cooperate with the Legislature's abuse of power investigation.

Joel Page / The Associated Press
Joel Page / The Associated Press

"Bluntly, I feel like Charlie Brown after Lucy moved the football," Elton wrote to Attorney General Talis Colberg.

Elton is chairman of the Legislative Council, which authorized and funded the investigation into Palin to determine whether she dismissed her public safety commissioner when he would not fire a state trooper involved in a bitter divorce with her sister.

Palin's attorney general on Tuesday said the Palin administration would resist complying with subpoenas from the Senate Judiciary Committee, charged with handling the investigation by the council.

Elton accused Palin of breaking her pledge to cooperate with the investigation, a deal that was formalized in negotiations between the Department of Law and the Legislature prior to her being named the Republican Party's vice presidential nominee and Sen. John McCain's running mate.

Elton quoted back to Attorney General Talis Colberg a comment from Palin saying, "We would never prohibit, or be less than enthusiastic about any kind of investigation. Let's deal with the facts and you do that via an investigation."

He also quoted her as saying, "I'm happy to comply, to cooperate. I have absolutely nothing to hide."

Elton said the administration's offer to comply was clear, and in writing. It was negotiated by Senior Assistant Attorney General Mike Barnhill and included an acknowledgment sought by Palin on how the state Personnel Act should be interpreted.

After Palin was nominated for vice president, she changed course and tried to move the investigation to the State Personnel Board, part of the executive branch she heads.

The Senate Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas to 13 witnesses, mostly Palin administration members, to compel testimony regarding the public safety commissioner's firing.

Colberg said those subpoenas were of questionable validity.

State law allows for imprisonment of not less than 30 days nor more than six months for failure to appear and testify in response to a subpoena from the committee.

Colberg was unavailable for comment, but Bill McAllister, Palin's communications director, issued a statement defending the change.

"Given the serious questions raised this week about the partisan nature of the Monegan inquiry, the Department of Law determined that a full vote of the Senate is necessary before appearing in response to the subpoenas," McAllister said.

McAllister said those questions were raised Monday by the McCain-Palin campaign in a news conference in Anchorage.

Under legislative rules, the Legislative Council has the authority to act on behalf of the full Legislature, and is made up of most of its top leaders, including House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez, and Senate President Lyda Green, R-Wasilla.

The 14-member council, which includes 10 Republicans, voted unanimously in July to begin the Palin inquiry.

Without calling a special session of the Legislature, the full Senate could not act on the Palin administration's request until January 2009.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or e-mail patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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