August 30, 2008

A Question About Palin's "Troopergate"


Which really seems to be a tempest in a teapot, since under Alaska law and the Alaska Constitution, she has the right to fire a political appointee for any reason -- or no reason at all.

But let's consider what the controversy is about.

The first serious scandal in Gov. Sarah Palin's administration has roots in a family feud. It erupted into public view with the July 11 firing of the state's top public safety official.

Some call it Troopergate.

Palin's abrupt dismissal of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan is now being investigated by a special counsel hired by the Alaska Legislature as to whether there was any official misconduct.

* * *

At issue is whether Palin, her administration or family improperly pressured Monegan to fire Alaska state trooper Michael Wooten, the ex-husband of Palin's sister, and whether Palin fired Monegan when that didn't happen. Palin's sister, Molly McCann, and Wooten are divorced but still battling in court over custody and visitation.

Now what this comes down to is a "he said/she said" dispute between Gov. Palin and a disgruntled political appointee she fired. And Palin has laid out a case for the firing that seems compelling to me.

Monegan was a Palin appointee, and she had a right to fire him for any reason. She's previously refused to say exactly why she got rid of him, but laid out several reasons Wednesday, saying she's decided to talk about it because Monegan is.

Palin said he wasn't doing enough to fill state trooper vacancies and battle alcohol abuse issues. She said he "did not turn out to be a team player on budgeting issues."

Palin said it's fine to have debates during cabinet meetings over the budget but Monegan went further and indicated to legislators she wasn't proposing enough spending. Palin's acting chief of staff, Mike Nizich, said Monegan asked legislators for spending that hadn't been authorized by the governor.

"The response he got was don't come to us and ask for more money when you cannot fill the 56 or 58 trooper positions that were vacant," Nizich said. "So he was making a pitch for additional funding when he couldn't even fill what he currently had available to him."

All of which, frankly, makes this a tempest in a teapot in my eyes -- right there is your good cause for the firing. Especially since no one other than Monegan has made a claim (much less presented evidence) that Palin herself placed any undue pressure on him to fire Wooten. And the calls by Todd Palin to Monegan? Seems they were made at the direction of the head of the governor's security detain -- because he saw Wooten as constituting a threat to the governor he is tasked with protecting.

Oh, by the way, what is Wooten alleged to have done that might have been grounds to fire him? is this just a case of trying to ruin her sister's ex-husband out of spite?

No, it isn't -- as official records released by the troopers' union at Wooten's request clearly demonstrates.

On July 17, the Public Safety Employees Association, with Wooten's permission, released the investigative file concerning the complaints brought against the trooper by the Palins, Palin's father and others.

The internal personnel investigation began in April 2005, long before Palin became governor and months before her October 2005 announcement that she was running. The investigation into Wooten wrapped up in March 2006.

Troopers found four instances in which Wooten violated policy, broke the law, or both:

- Wooten used a Taser on his stepson

- He shot a moose without a permit, which is illegal. At the time he was married to McCann, who has a permit but never intended to shoot it herself.

- He drank beer in his patrol car on one occasion.

- He told others that his father-in-law - Palin's father, Chuck Heath - would "eat a f'ing lead bullet" if he helped his daughter get an attorney for the divorce.

Drinking (presumably when on duty) while in a patrol car? Hunting illegally? Assault on a 10-year-old with a Taser? Threatening to murder a parent for helping his daughter get a lawyer -- a right guaranteed by both the US and Alaska constitutions? And all he got was a 10-day suspension, cut in half after union officials protested that punishment as too harsh? Would somebody tell me why this man is even walking the streets, much less wearing a uniform and carrying a badge? Why were there no criminal charges brought -- especially over the assault on the kid?

And let's not forget that these are just the charges confirmed by the state police. That doesn't get into the claims of restraining orders he violated, possible other incidents of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, and the domestic abuse of Palin's sister. Trooper Wooten seems like a mighty unstable character to me -- a true menace to society with a gun and a badge.

For more details, see what is clearly the internet's definitive post on the issue, over at Flopping Aces.

But the reality is that the evidence really doesn't support the charge that Palin herself did anything wrong -- but even if it did, wouldn't a reasonable person see it as simple over-zealousness based upon a concern for public safety?

After all, let's consider a hypothetical alternative.

Suppose, just for a minute, that no one in the Palin administration or family said anything about Wooten after Sarah Palin became governor.

Six months or a year from now, Wooten shoots someone, wrecks a patrol car while drunk, abuses another kid or gets busted for other serious illegal activity.

Wouldn't Palin's opponents then ask "Knowing what she knew, why didn't Gov. Palin do more to get rid of this cop who she knew to be unstable and dangerous?"

I know I would -- and I've been mentioning her as an attractive choice for VP (and possible future presidential candidate) for about six months now.

So if anyone erred in this case, I'm glad that they have erred on the side of protecting the public from a rogue cop with a history of violence and threats of violence against the innocent.

H/T Hot Air, Wizbang, Strata-Sphere, Victorious Opposition

OPEN TRACKBACKING AT The Virtuous Republic, Perri Nelson's Website, Is It Just Me?, Mark My Words, Rosemary's Thoughts, Right Truth, DragonLady's World, Shadowscope, , Leaning Straight Up, The Amboy Times, Democrat=Socialist, Pursuing Holiness, Pet's Garden Blog, third world county, , Woman Honor Thyself, Pirate's Cove, , The Pink Flamingo, Dumb Ox Daily News, Right Voices, Blog @, A Blog For All, Cao's Blog, , NN&V, Conservative Cat, Nuke's, Diary of the Mad Pigeon, Allie is Wired, Political Byline, McCain Blogs, The World According to Carl, , Beagle Scout, and CORSARI D'ITALIA, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.

|| Greg, 12:11 PM || Permalink || Comments (5) || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

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Comments on A Question About Palin's "Troopergate"

Thanks for the link! I'll be adding your site to our blogroll. Keep up the great work, Greg!

|| Posted by ThrilloftheVO, August 30, 2008 12:38 PM ||

Thank you!

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, August 30, 2008 12:43 PM ||

I was on the DU forum yesterday and they were saying that Biden is going to destroy her. I hope he goes for it. He will bury himself attacking a mother of five and I would not underestimate her.

Great site, keep up the good work!!

|| Posted by Chris, August 30, 2008 01:46 PM ||

serious allegations, yes...but allegations nonetheless and obviously not proven or convicted of them. Abuse and misuse of power allegations, yes...and the investigation is on-going, so don't get your cart before your horse.
Liberal media?? I find that part the least credible.

|| Posted by D.L. , September 1, 2008 07:34 AM ||

this is the dumbest site i ever stumbled across....palin will take down McCain so hard....if you want McCain to win get Palin won't work. back-water girl will not make it to the white house.

|| Posted by ray reyns, September 1, 2008 03:38 PM ||
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