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Sarah Palin, John McCain’s running mate, unlawfully abused her power as Alaska’s governor by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper, according to an ethics investigation released last night. It deals a significant blow to an already embattled Republican ticket just over three weeks until Election Day.

Two month investigation, found that Mrs Palin was motivated in part by a personal grudge when she fired Walt Monegan, the police chief

The report, released after a two month investigation, found that Mrs Palin was motivated in part by a personal grudge when she fired Walt Monegan, the police chief, after he failed to dismiss her brother-in-law, who had been involved in an ugly divorce from her sister.

The finding will be an unwelcome distraction for Mr McCain at a time when he is struggling to hold ground against his Democratic rival Barack Obama, who has been boosted by the economic crisis, an issue where significantly more voters trust him on.

Mrs Palin has always maintained that she dismissed Mr Monegan over budget disputes, but the investigator hired by a 14-member bipartisan panel of the Alaskan state legislature concluded that a personal grudge influenced her decision – although it was not the sole reason for her motive to fire him.

Mrs Palin has always maintained that she dismissed Mr Monegan over budget disputes

Mr Monegan triggered the enquiry this summer when he alleged he had been fired by Mrs Palin, the Governor of Alaska, because he refused to bow to pressure by her, her husband Todd, and members of her staff to sack Mike Wooten, Mrs Palin’s former brother-in-law.

Mr Wooten, an Alaskan state trooper, was divorced from Mrs Palin’s sister in unseemly circumstances. He has not denied tasering his 10-year-old stepson – although he says the boy requested it – and at the height of intra-family conflict the Palins allege that he threatened to kill Mrs Palin’s father.

The investigation found Mrs Palin in violation of a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain.

“I feel vindicated,,“ Mr Monegan said. “It sounds like they’ve validated my belief and opinions. And that tells me I’m not totally out in left field.”

Stephen Blanchflower, the investigator hired by the legislative committee to conduct the investigation, said he found Mrs Palin in violation of a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain. He said she violated a statute of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.

The nearly 300-page report does not recommend sanctions or a criminal investigation, but it will inevitably be seized upon by Democrats to undermine both Mrs Palin and Mr McCain, who knew about the ethics investigation before he chose her as his running mate.

The report detailed the unusually high level of access Mrs Palin’s husband, Todd, had to her top aides.

In sworn affidavits released yesterday, the man she calls ‘The First Dude of Alaska’ attempted to shoulder much of the blame for the pressure on Mr Monegan to fire Trooper Wooten.
 

Interviews and documents show that the commissioner and his aides were contacted about Trooper Wooten more than 30 times over 19 months by the governor, her husband and seven administration officials.

He defended his two-year crusade to get his former brother-in-law kicked off the state police force. He said he had been trying to get Mr Wooten fired months before Mrs Palin became governor, and that his efforts intensified after she took office. He also said that at one point she told him to “drop it”.

“I make no apologies for wanting to protect my family and wanting to publicise the injustice of a violent trooper keeping his badge,” said Mr Palin.

Interviews and documents show that the commissioner and his aides were contacted about Trooper Wooten more than 30 times over 19 months by the governor, her husband and seven administration officials. At one point Mr Palin met with Mr Monegan with a file on Mr Wooten put together by a private investigator.

Initially Mrs Palin claimed there had been no pressure on Mr Monegan to fire Mr Wooten, but this summer she was forced to concede that members of her staff made numerous calls to Mr Monegan and other state officials about Mr Wooten.

Mike Wooten divorced Mrs Palin’s sister, Molly McCann, in 2005.

In March 2006 – eight months before Mrs Palin became governor – he was given a 10-day suspension after being accused of killing a moose without a permit, unfairly claiming disability benefit and using a stun gun on his 10-year-old stepson.

Mrs Palin said Mr Monegan was never fired, insisting he had been asked to step down as public safety commissioner and was offered a position on the Alcoholic Beverage Control board, due to his “outright insubordination” and “rogue mentality” when it came to budget and policy issues.

Last week, an Anchorage judge refused to halt proceedings, after five Republican lawmakers sued to block the inquiry. Joined by a sixth legislator, they filed an emergency appeal, which was later rejected by the state high court.

In a pre-emptive attack on today’s report – and in a clear sign of their concern about it – the McCain campaign released its own version of events. Taylor Griffin, a campaign spokesman, said that their report found that the dispute between the governor and her commissioner was an entirely legitimate one, which had been skewed by Democratic bias. The McCain campaign has maintained for over a month that the investigation was politically motivated.

In a pre-emptive attack on today’s report – the McCain campaign released its own version of events.

“The following document will prove Walt Monegan’s dismissal was a result of his insubordination and budgetary clashes with Governor Palin and her administration,” campaign officials wrote. “Trooper Wooten is a separate issue.”

“It is tragic that a false story hatched by a blogger over drinks with Trooper Wooten led the legislature to allocate over $100,000 of public money to be spent in what has become a politically-driven investigation,” it concludes.

In a statement after the report’s findings were released, the McCain campaign added: “Today’s report shows that the Governor acted within her proper and lawful authority in the reassignment of Walt Monegan. The report also illustrates what we’ve known all along: this was a partisan led inquiry run by Obama supporters and the Palins were completely justified in their concern regarding Trooper Wooten given his violent and rogue behavior.

“Lacking evidence to support the original Monegan allegation, the Legislative Council seriously overreached, making a tortured argument to find fault without basis in law or fact. The Governor is looking forward to cooperating with the Personnel Board and continuing her conversation with the American people regarding the important issues facing the country.”

Source: TimesOnline London

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Mudflats: I’ve been waiting for this one. One of the witnesses called by Stephen Branchflower (independent investigator of the legitimate Troopergate investigation) put herself in a tricky spot.

Murlene Wilkes, owner of Harbor Adjusting Services, and holder of a $1.2 million/yr. contract with the State of Alaska to handle workers compensation claims, apparently told a big fat fib. When Branchflower asked her if the governor’s office had ever asked her to deny a workers compensation claim for Palin’s ex-brother-in-law Trooper Mike Wooten (the trooper in “Troopergate”), she said no. Never. Really.

Mike Wooten, of course, is involved in a bitter custody dispute with Palin’s sister Molly. The Palins do not like him. Some say they have made a vengeful and personal sport out of ruining his career.

Problem is, that there are actually honest people in the world….and one of them works for Murlene Wilkes at Harbor Investments. This unnamed worker made a little phone call to the tip line that Branchflower set up at the beginning of the investigation. According to the tipster, yes indeed, the governor’s office DID put pressure to deny the claim.

Hard evidence contradicting sworn testimony has a certain effect on people. Murlene Wilkes, faced with this situation, decided to change her testimony according to a report in The Public Record. Now, with the little extra incentive of avoiding perjury charges, she has admitted that she was asked to deny the claim – at the direct request of Sarah and Todd Palin.

*chin hitting desk* (a moment of stunned silence)

  • Wilkes has a $1.2 million contract with the state to handle workers compensation claims. Her contract with the state was up but her firm was recently given a new contract despite the fact that there were others who provided the state with a lower bid than Wilkes’s firm. One of the other applicants who submitted a lower bid has appealed the decision. Wilkes told Branchflower she believed it was impressed upon her from Palin’s office that she would lose the contract if she did not deny the claim, state officials knowledgeable about her testimony said.

    Although Wooten did receive worker’s compensation benefits for about three months, his claim was suddenly denied and he was forced to hire a lawyer and appeal the issue, which dragged on for more than six months. It’s unknown if Wilkes played any role in denying Wooten worker’s compensation benefits.

    According to John Cyr, the executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association, the union that represents Wooten and other state troopers, Wooten was approved for workers compensation benefits in January 2007. He filed for benefits due to a back injury he suffered when he pulled a dead body from a wrecked automobile and slipped on icy pavement.

    The same month Wooten started receiving workers compensation benefits, Todd Palin began following Wooten around “snapping pictures of him,” Cyr said.

    “Frank Bailey was getting people to say that [Wooten] was lying on his worker’s comp form,” Cyr said. “The governor’s family was following Mike around everywhere. They forwarded that information to the worker’s comp division.”

    All this information about Todd stalking Wooten came out when Troopergate first broke, well before Palin’s nomination. But, the press here didn’t follow up much. They preferred to focus on the “Is Wooten a Bad Cop?” angle of the story. That was a lot more exciting…you know…tasers, infidelity, drunk driving, illegal moose hunting…

    Troopergate, much to the dismay of the Palins, refuses to go away, and only gets worse, the longer it goes on. Worker’s compensation claims may not be ’sexy’, but some say this may end up being the final nail in the coffin of Palin’s political career.

    Branchflower’s report is due to be released on October 10th. Let the countdown to truth begin.

  • Source: Mudflats

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