She really DOES fit in in D.C.!!
Palins to Be Deposed Today in Alaska Ethics Investigation
An attorney hired by Alaska’s personnel board to investigate whether Gov. Sarah Palin violated state ethics laws when she fired her public safety commissioner will depose the governor and her husband today.
Timothy Petumenos, the attorney hired by the personnel board, will spend about six hours interviewing Palin and her husband, Todd, said Thomas Van Flein, an attorney representing the Palins.
It’s unknown whether Petunmenos will release a report prior to the Nov. 4 election.
Last week, the Alaska Legislative Council voted unanimously to share with Petumenos more than 1,000 pages of documents collected by Steve Branchflower, the independent counsel who spent six weeks investigating Palin. The documents collected by Branchflower have not been released publicly because of confidentiality concerns.
Petumenos's investigation is said to include at least two other ethics complaints filed against Palin, one of which is believed to be a complaint filed by The Public Safety Employees Union alleging Palin and her aides illegally accessed her ex brother-in-law's personnel files and improperly and illegally tried to get him fired from his job as a state trooper. Watchdog Andree McLeod filed the only other publicly known ethics complaint against Palin. McLeod alleges the governor secured a state job for one of her fundraisers.
On Oct. 10, an investigative report written by Branchflower and released by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers concluded that Palin abused her authority and broke state ethics laws by sanctioning a campaign to pressure subordinates to fire her former brother-in-law, state trooper Mike Wooten.
Although Palin, Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential running mate, welcomed the probe in July, she turned against it after John McCain picked her in late August to be his running mate. The McCain-Palin campaign dispatched a team of operatives to Alaska in an effort to block or discredit the investigation.
On Sept. 2, just a day before she accepted the GOP nomination, Palin took the unusual step of filing an ethics complaint against herself. Her attorney, Thomas Van Flein, said the probe sanctioned by the Legislative Council was a partisan witch-hunt led by Obama supporters, despite the fact that it was approved by a majority of Republican lawmakers. The state personnel board, Palin and her attorneys said is the appropriate governing body to conduct a fair and nonpartisan investigation into Palin for possible ethics violations.
Palin and her campaign advisers are betting that the personnel board, two of whose members were appointed by former Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski, will clear her of wrongdoing in the firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.
However, according to a report in Newsweek, the personnel board’s probe may lead to “more land mines.”
“McCain aides were chagrined to discover that Petumenos was a Democrat who had contributed to Palin's 2006 opponent for governor, Tony Knowles,” Newsweek reported.
Since the 263-page Branchflower report has been released, Palin has misrepresented the report’s findings.
“Well, I’m very, very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing," Palin said, "any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that."
The report found that Palin violated a statute of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act, which says "each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust."
Sarah and Todd Palin, and their handlers, have defended their actions and denied Monegan, the public safety commissioner, was pressured to fire trooper Wooten.
In his findings, Branchflower said Monegan’s resistance to the pressure to fire Wooten played a part in Palin's decision to terminate him as the state's top police official, but that her firing decision was nonetheless lawful.
"I find that, although Walt Monegan’s refusal to fire Trooper Michael Wooten was not the sole reason he was fired by Gov. Sarah Palin, it was likely a contributing factor to his termination as Commissioner of Public Safety," Branchflower said. "In spite of that, Gov. Palin’s firing of Commissioner Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads."
Branchflower’s report concluded that the effort to oust Wooten was spearheaded by Todd Palin, who calls himself “First Dude” and received support in his anti-Wooten campaign from the governor. The Palins refused to be interviewed by Branchflower.
"Gov. Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda, to wit: To get Trooper Michael Wooten fired," the report said. "The evidence supports the conclusion that Gov. Palin, at the least, engaged in 'official action' by her inaction, if not her active participation or assistance to her husband, to get trooper Wooten fired."
According to the report, "She knowingly, as that term is defined in the above statutes, permitted Todd Palin to use the Governor's office and the resources of the Governor's office, including access to state employees, to continue to contact subordinate state employees, in an effort to find some way to get Trooper Wooten fired."
Todd Palin admitted he was obsessed with getting his wife’s estranged brother-in-law fired from the state troopers, so much so that Gov. Palin once told him to “stop talking about it with her,” according to a 25-page sworn affidavit given to a state investigator.
In the affidavit, Todd Palin takes much of the responsibility for pestering state officials about firing Trooper Mike Wooten, apparently to deflect some of the blame for the “Troopergate” affair from his wife, now the Republican vice presidential nominee.
"I had hundreds of conversations with my family, with friends, with colleagues, and with just about everyone I could -- including government officials,” Todd Palin wrote. “In fact, I talked about Wooten so much over the years that my wife told me to stop talking about it with her."
The affidavit shows that Todd Palin spent much of Gov. Palin's nearly two years in office trying to get Wooten kicked off the police force for alleged misconduct.
In the affidavit, Todd Palin said he had many conversations about Wooten with Mike Tibbles, Gov. Palin's chief of staff, "gave him a packet of information" on Wooten, and "spoke to him a couple of times about my questions whether Wooten was following the law on his workers' comp claim."
Todd Palin said he "makes no apologies for wanting to protect my family and wanting to publicize the injustice of a violent trooper keeping his badge and abusing the workers' compensation system."
Todd Palin denied pressuring Monegan to fire Wooten and traced Monegan’s dismissal to other disputes, such as budgetary disagreements and Monegan’s failure to defend Gov. Palin from false statements about her record on public safety and funding levels for troopers.
“I never told [Monegan] to fire Wooten,” Todd Palin said. “My understanding was that he was in charge of receiving any kind of complaint about a trooper. That was his job. At no time did Monegan tell me he felt ‘pressure’ nor would I expect the top law enforcement officer in our state to feel ‘pressure’ to do anything he did not think was right.”
In addition to the personnel board probe, Palin faces new legal difficulties as a result of the “Ttroopergate” report released by Branchflower.
Last week, Monegan submitted a complaint to the personnel board seeking a hearing to “address reputational harm” caused by Palin.
In the complaint, which appears to set the stage for a lawsuit, Monegan’s attorney Jeffrey Feldman said Palin’s “inconsistent and changing explanations” for firing Monegan – including claims that he was fired for insubordination – have damaged his reputation.
“Mr. Monegan does not challenge the Governor’s right to discharge him as the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety,” the complaint said. “But the Governor is not entitled to make untrue and defamatory statements about her reasons for discharging a cabinet officer.
“Gov. Palin’s public statements accusing Mr. Monegan of serious misconduct were untrue and they have stigmatized his good name, severely damaged — and continue to damage — his reputation and impaired his ability to pursue future professional employment in law enforcement and related fields. This damage thus implicates his constitutionally protected liberty interests.”
For his part, Wooten, the state trooper, is prepared to sue Palin, her husband, and the state for spending the past three years trying to get him fired from his job, according to John Cyr, the executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association, the union that represents state troopers.
Also, a top Alaska State Trooper official who works with Wooten said Wooten has told several close associates that he will soon file a multimillion lawsuit against Palin. The official requested anonymity because Wooten, who has declined interview requests, did not clear him to speak about the plans.
"Trooper Wooten intends to sue Gov. Palin, her husband, and some people in her administration for slander defamation of character, and civil rights violations,” the official said. “His attorneys are considering filing in state and federal court."
The lawsuits could cause additional problems for Palin if Alaska’s taxpayers are forced to foot the bill for any settlements.
In the complaint she filed against herself with the personnel board, Palin waived her right to confidentiality. The McCain-Palin campaign said shortly thereafter that the investigation would remain secret at the request of Petumenos.
However, Anchorage attorney Meg Simonian threatened to sue to make the findings public as it relates to other officials in Palin’s administration.
In a response to Simonian, Petumenos said “the Governor does not have the right, under such circumstances, to waive the right of confidentiality for others,” Petumenos wrote, adding that it’s likely his report will eventually be released publicly.
“The Board is … mindful of the public interest and the interest in the credibility to its processes that public disclosure would provide,” Petumenos said.
In a separate development, a top Alaska Democratic lawmaker has called on the state’s attorney general to appoint an independent investigator to probe whether operatives in Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign broke Alaska’s criminal witness-tampering laws.
In a letter to Attorney General Talis Colberg, state Rep. Les Gara alleges that McCain’s campaign staffers influenced witnesses close to Palin to get them to withhold cooperation from a legislative inquiry into whether Palin abused her authority in pursuing a vendetta against her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper.
“I am concerned that the state’s criminal witness-tampering laws have been broken by certain staff for Sen. McCain’s presidential campaign,” Gara wrote to Colberg on Monday.
Gara said the McCain staff arrived in Alaska after Palin was picked as McCain’s running mate on Aug. 29 and spent the next month and a half trying “to stall or stop” the investigation by getting several senior Palin aides and her husband Todd to balk at giving depositions.
Gara noted that Palin’s aides had agreed in July to be deposed about allegations that Palin improperly fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan after he refused to fire her ex-brother-in-law, Trooper Mike Wooten. However, after Palin’s selection as the GOP vice presidential nominee, the aides reneged.
Colberg, a close Palin ally, responded to Gara late Monday and advised the Democratic lawmaker to bring his concerns before the state personnel board, and ask the panel to further expand its probe of Palin.
“While you do not accuse anyone in the Department of Law of criminal conduct, you are particularly critical of McCain Campaign staff attorney Ed O’Callaghan,” Colberg wrote. “You suggest that my department may have a conflict of interest in investigating or supervising the investigation of the matter directly. Since the scope of the pending investigation before the State of Alaska Personnel Board has greatly expanded, investigator Timothy Petumenos...may be willing to add the federal witness tampering criminal allegations to his inquiry.
"Expanding the scope of the personnel board investigation would accomplish your goal of assuring that the allegations are taken seriously, and it would eliminate the potential for any perceived investigative conflict between the Department of Law and another entity."
Colberg earlier spearheaded a failed effort by the Palin administration to get the state courts to quash the subpoenas.
Despite the resistance from Palin’s aides and from Colberg, the legislative inquiry on “Troopergate” was completed on Oct. 10 with a finding that Palin had abused her authority and violated the state ethics law that bars officials from using their positions to further personal aims.
Gara began his push to have the witness-tampering issue addressed last month with a letter to Colonel Audie Holloway, director of the Alaska State Troopers.
"Something has caused, or in the words of the statute, may have ‘induced’ these witnesses to change their position," Gara wrote. "It seems a witness would not risk possible jail time that comes with the violations of a subpoena without advice of others."
Last update: Thursday, October 23, 2008
[link to www.pubrecord.org