The media just can’t get enough of Alaska’s governor Sarah Palin. The report released on Friday concluded that Palin “abused her power.” But I think it’s important to take an objective look at what really happened and when it happened.
Before going into the specifics, I think it’s important to start with a hypothetical question. If you and your family were being physically threatened by a law enforcement officer who had admitted to using a taser in the past on his small child, what would you do? Would you do everything in your power to make his superiors aware of his behavior and threats? Would you think it appropriate for that law enforcement officer to be disciplined, up to and including getting fired?
I would suggest that any rational person’s response to those questions would be Yes, Yes, and Yes. Keep that in mind as you look over this timeline of events relating to “Troopergate.”
April 2005 – Trooper Mike Wooten is in the middle of a divorce from Molly McCann, Sarah Palin’s sister.
McCann says in a petition for a restraining order against Wooten that he has engaged in “extreme verbal abuse & violent threats & physical intimidation.” She aslo says that he drives drunk, has threatened her father, and said “put a leash on your sister and family or I’m going to bring them down.” A 20-day protective order is issued.
Sgt. Ron Wall begins an investigation into Wooten’s actions in April 2005.
In August 2005, Sarah Palin sends an email to Col. Julia Grimes, head of the state police. In that email, Palin says “My concern is that the public’s faith in the Troopers will continue to diminish as more residents express concerns regarding the apparent lack of action towards a Trooper whom is described by many as ‘a ticking time bomb’ and a ‘loose cannon.’ “and “Wooten is my brother-in-law, but this information is forwarded to you objectively.” Palin asks Grimes to treat the information objectively.
The investigator issues his report on Wooten in October 2005. He finds four instances of law-breaking or policy violations:
- Wooten used a Taser on his 11-year-old stepson
- He illegally shot a moose on a hunt in 2003
- He drank beer in his patrol car on one occasion, with other allegations of drinking and driving
- He told others his father-in-law would “eat a f’ing lead bullet” if he helped his daughter get an attorney for the divorce.
In October 2005, Sarah Palin annouces that she’s going to run for governor.
In January 2006, the divorce of McCann and Wooten is finalized, and they receive joint custody of the children. The judge says he’ll be monitoring whether McCann and her family “disparage” Wooten.
In March 2006, Wooten is suspended from his job for 10 days and given a warning that this is his “last chance for corrective action.” Grimes says: “The record clearly indicates a serious and concentrated pattern of unacceptable and at times, illegal activity occurring over a lengthy period, which establishes a course of conduct totally at odds with the ethics of our profession.”
In September 2006, the suspension of Wooten is reduced to 5 days following a union grievance.
In November 2006, Sarah Palin wins the general election, and becomes Alaska’s governor in December 2006. She appoints Walter Monegan as public safety commissioner.
In January 2007, Palin’s husband Todd invited Monegan to the governor’s office, and he asked Monegan to look into the Wooten matter. Todd shows him private investigator reports, letters, and correspondence which might indicate Wooten should be punished. Monegan said that the matter was closed.
Monegan says Palin herself called him a few days later about the issue, and again brought it up in February 2007.
Monegan says this was her last direct contact with him about the Wooten issue, although he says she “indirectly” brought it up in emails. He says that in one email, Sarah Palin said: “She said troopers like this one [referring to a jury verdict against a trooper] and my former brother-in-law, or that trooper I used to be related to, are the things that make people not trust troopers.”
The same email also says: “He threatened to kill his estranged wife’s parent, refused to be transferred to rural Alaska and continued to disparage Natives in words and tone, he continues to harass and intimidate his ex. — even after being slapped with a restraining order that was lifted when his supervisors intervened,” the e-mail said. “He threatens to always be able to come out on top because he’s ‘got the badge’, etc. etc. etc.)”
Monegan further reports phone calls from Sarah Palin’s chief of staff, commissioner of the Department of Administration, and the Attorney General. The Attorney General, Talis Colberg, says his contact was in response to Todd Palin’s question about “the process” when a state trooper makes a death threat against the first family.
In all, an estimated 20 to 24 phone calls were made to Monegan regarding wooten.
In April 2007, Tod Palin meeds with Wooten’s boss, Col. Audie Holloway to give her pictures of Wooten riding a snowmobile while out on a worker’s compensation claim.
In July 2008, Monegan is fired and told that Sarah Palin wants to “go in a different direction.” Monegan alleges that he was fired because Palin (and her administration and family) pressured him to fire Wooten and he refused. Palin denies that his firing had anything to do with Wooten.
According to the report of the investigator examining whether Sarah Palin abused her power:
“… I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.”
That act says that “… any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.” I just don’t see any personal gain in this situation. All we have is a family that has been threatened with violence by a law enforcement officer, and they want to voice their concerns. Wouldn’t you be concerned if someone who carried a handgun every day for his job had threatened to put a bullet into one of your family members?
The other finding was that the firing of Walt Monegan was “… a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.”
Here’s what concerns me about the report as a whole: The report came from an investigator appointed by a supposedly bi-partisan ethics panel. The McCain campaign says that the panel isn’t really so bi-partisan, as it’s run by supporters of Barack Obama. They say that the report made “a tortured argument to find fault without basis in law or fact.”
The McCain campaign has said this in response to the report:
“The Palins were completely justified in their concern regarding Trooper Wooten given his violent and rogue behavior.”