Troopergate II Report to be Released at 3:30 Election Eve – Updated.

3 11 2008

Independent Investigator Tim Petumenos, who was hired by the Personnel Board just said he will release his troopergate report at 3:30 p.m. today. This is the second report, following on the heels of a Legisltative Investigation whose report last month indicated that Palin had abused her power in the firing of former Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan.  This investigation was initiated by Palin, who filed an ethics complaint against herself to make sure that the investigation happened in this venue.

Kyle Hopkins from the Anchorage Daily News is on the scene.

He said the report would cover Gov. Sarah Palin’s firing of Walt Monegan as well as a separate complaint from Anchorage activist Andree McLeod alleging alleges that state hiring practices were circumvented for a Palin supporter.

Petumenos has two staff members with him, and each has a thick, yellow-bound document on their lap. I should note that when I called
Personnel Board chair Debra English before the meeting to ask about
the Palin investigation, she didn’t say anything but recommended
showing up.

Buckle your seatbelts.

*****UPDATE – In a complete stunner that actually shouldn’t surprise us, The Personnel Board’s investigation of Palin, which she initiated herself, has concluded  that she did nothing wrong. At all.  Ever. And neither did any of her cronies.

Several members of the Alaska State Legislaure who are also attorneys have stated over the past weeks that they would be very surprised if the results of the Petumenos investigation initiated by Palin herself differed significantly from the Branchflower investigation initiated by the Alaska State Legislature. Hmmm.   I guess they are surprised.

The state Personnel Board-sanctioned investigation is the second into whether Palin violated state ethics law in firing her public safety commissioner, and it contradicts the earlier findings by a special counsel hired by the state Legislature.

 

Both investigations found that Palin was within her rights to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.

 

But the new report says the Legislature’s investigator was wrong to conclude that Palin abused her power by allowing aides and her husband, Todd, to pressure Monegan and others to dismiss her ex-brother-in-law, Trooper Mike Wooten. Palin was accused of firing Monegan after Wooten stayed on the job.

[snip]

Petumenos wrote the Legislature’s special counsel, former state prosecutor Steve Branchflower, used the wrong state law as the basis for his conclusions and also misconstrued the evidence.

His findings and recommendations include:

 

– There is no cause to believe Palin violated the state ethics law in deciding to dismiss Monegan as public safety commissioner.

 

– There is no cause to believe Palin violated the state ethics law in connection with Wooten.

 

– There is no cause to believe any other state official violated the ethics act.

 

– There’s no basis to conduct a hearing to “address reputational harm,” as requested by Monegan.

 

– The state needs to address the issue of using private e-mails for government work and to examine how records are kept in the governor’s office. Palin used her Yahoo e-mail account for state business until it was hacked.

This investigation agreed with the findings of the Legislative investigation that Palin was within her rights to fire Monegan, who was an at-will employee. Monegan himself has never disputed Palin’s right to fire him.  However, the Personnel Board’s conclusion that Palin did not abuse her power is in direct contradiction to the Branchflower report released by the Legislative Council.

The fact that this report concludes there is no cause to believe that any other state official violated the ethics act is one that should raise eyebrows.  Nobody thrown under the bus, even?  Everyone is squeaky clean, angel-faced and pure as the driven snow…..yeah, right.

But here’s the killer.  Walt Monegan was denied his request for a public hearing to clear his name, after Palin and her “Truth Squad” dragged his reputation through the mud by saying that he had a “rogue mentality” and committed acts of “outright insubordination”.  Unbelievable. 

Since the Personnel Board has now refused to grant his request, this means that he has now, officially, exhausted all administrative possibilities in his case, and is basically now free to file a lawsuit.

So here’s your quick recap of the investigation:

The Legislature decides to investigate Palin for ethics violations.  Palin says she will cooperate, so no subpoena is issued.  Palin sends out Attorney General Talis Colberg to interview witnesses in advance of the Legislature’s investigation, so she knows what they’re going to say.  Palin discovers a taped phone call made by her administration pressuring Troopers to fire Wooten.  Palin says she is surprised by phone call and concedes it looks bad. Palin files ethics complaint against herself so that the Republican governor appointed Personnel Board, made up of people that she can fire,  will be the group that investigates.  Palin says Legislative investigation has become partisan and refuses to cooperate. Attorney General tells state employees they don’t need to comply with Legislative subpoenas.  They don’t show for depositions.  At the last minute they provide written testimony, but Palin still does not cooperate because she was not subpoenaed.  Legislature releases report that says Palin abused her power and violated the Executive Ethics Act.  Then, the day before the election, The Personnel Board releases a report clearing Palin and all state employees of everything.

My contacts at Alaskans for Truth, who were involved in supporting Walt Monegan in his request for a hearing, are not pleased.  This isn’t over by a long shot.  It’s unlikely that this grass roots group is going to let Palin skip off into the sunset without a fight.

Stay tuned for updates as they become available.  I expect we’ll be hearing from members of the Legislature soon.

 

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Let the Troopergate Fallout Begin.

14 10 2008

The second Troopergate investigation is still underway, but the karmic returns of the events which brought about the whole mess to begin with have started to manifest.

The rumor mill is churning, and the news today is all bad for Governor Palin. 

Trooper Mike Wooten is none too pleased at having his name dragged through the mud by the Palins.  What might be on his mind these days, we wonder?

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.”

And what about Walt Monegan, Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety – one of the most highly respected public servants in the state, and an ex-marine that Palin said has a “rogue mentality” and committed acts of “outright insubordination?”   He has engaged the services of crackerjack Anchorage attorney Jeff Feldman.  Mr. Feldman has asserted that Palin’s charges have damaged Monegan’s reputation, and has laid the groundwork for a lawsuit by submitting a complaint to the State Personnel Board:

“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.”

Monegan’s attorney signaled that a lawsuit was in the offing, stating that “Mr. Monegan requests that the board declare, or secure a declaration from the Attorney General, that Mr. Monegan has exhausted his administrative remedies and may assert his claim in Superior Court.”

And last, but not least, the people of Alaska are not amused.  Yes, her support here remains strong, but the process of erosion has started.   A recall petition is now being explored… More details to follow.





Son of Troopergate.

14 10 2008

Let me start by saying we know nothing yet. However.

The “other” Troopergate probe into Sarah Palin’s abuse of power in trying to get her ex-brother-in-law fired, is taking an interesting turn. The investigation, sanctioned by Palin herself, stems from the Personnel Board. This board is composed of three people, all governor-appointed, two by the previous Republican governor Frank Murkowski, and one re-upped by Palin.

The Legislature, of course, had its own investigation and concluded that Palin was, in fact, guilty of abuse of her power as Governor. But Palin has been decrying the Legislative investigation as a “partisan circus” and a kangaroo court. The REAL investigation, she says, comes from the Personnel Board. So convinced of this was Palin, that she herself is the one who filed the ethics complaint against….herself, just to make sure this Board had the final say.

Timothy Petumenos was appointed as the independent investigator for the Personnel Board. The buzz around town is that he’s a good guy, a competent and aggressive trial lawyer, a straight-shooter, and will do his job well. Then came the awful revelation…Timothy Petumenos is…..a Democrat. (loud ominous chord plays on the Mudflats organ) And not only a Democrat, but one who had contributed to Tony Knowles 2006 gubernatorial campaign when he was running against Palin! (loud, slightly higher on the scale chord plays on the Mudflats organ)

Palin, who said she would cooperate with the Personnel Board’s investigation, is scheduled to be questioned by Petumenos next week.

We took a gamble when we went to the personnel board,” said a McCain aide who asked not to be identified discussing strategy. While the McCain camp still insists Palin “has nothing to hide,” it acknowledges a critical finding by Petumenos would be even harder to dismiss.

But wait, there’s more.

We learned, in the wee hours of the morning, that Timothy Petumenos’ job has gotten a little bigger. The nets are cast wide, and there are more fish than we thought.

The state Personnel Board investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin’s firing of Walt Monegan has broadened to include other ethics complaints against the governor and examination of actions by other state employees, according to the independent counsel handling the case.

Indeeeed….

Two other ethics complaints involving Palin are known. One, by activist Andree McLeod, alleges that state hiring practices were circumvented for a Palin supporter. The case is not related to Monegan’s firing. The other, by the Public Safety Employees Association, alleges that trooper Mike Wooten’s personnel file was illegally breached by state officials.

John Cyr, the PSEA executive director, said Monday the union plans to amend its complaint to be sure the board investigates “harassment” of Wooten as well.

There’s no way of knowing how long this will take, or what the results will be, but we may be in for some more surprises before this is over.





Sarah, Hit the Dirt! It’s Safety Bear!

13 10 2008

Alaska State Troopers' "Safety Bear"

As everyone gets to sift through the 263-page Troopergate report released by the Legislative Council last week, little tidbits about the Palins are emerging. Here’s one I had to share.

MR. MONEGAN: Well, Trooper Wooten, on light duty, had signed up for an overtime detail to work at the state fair in the costume of Safety Bear. And it’s a — it’s a costume, much like a mascot kind of thing. He was going to be escorted around, walk the fair grounds, but mostly around the area of the trooper recruiting booth, and meeting kids, talking to them, that kind of stuff. And so he wouldn’t have been recognizable inside a costume. But obviously the governor’s office was aware that he was going to be there, and they were — they did not want Wooten to be there.

MR. BRANCHFLOWER: And did you learn from Kris Perry, or anyone for that matter, how they knew that —

MR. MONEGAN: No. I —

MR. BRANCHFLOWER: — Trooper Wooten was going to be there?

MR. MONEGAN: I figured they had spies, honestly.

Sarah! Run for your life! It’s Safety Bear!!!

Can you iMAGine what might have happened if Sarah and Todd Palin’s spies hadn’t gotten wind of the Safety Bear plot?

(Women scream, State Fair goers scatter knocking down children with cotton candy and giant turkey legs, the table of giant vegetables is overturned, chickens and rabbits released from their cages run between the legs of stampeding parents trying to whisk their young children to safety, young lovers are stranded on the ferris wheel while fair workers abandon their rides and flee for the hills in abject terror!)

Every once in a while, something in this whole mess is so utterly absurd it makes me actually laugh until I cry. Last time it was the “Witch Hunter” (mopping eyes)….now, Safety Bear.





Walt Monegan and the Other Ex-Commissioner of Public Safety.

13 10 2008

In the media circus, and legislative frenzy of the Troopergate investigation, and the release of the Branchflower Report, it’s good to hear from former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan himself.

“I’ve never contested my firing. My firing was completely lawful,” Monegan said in a nationally broadcast interview. “It wasn’t that I was fired that I asked any questions. It was, what were the reasons for the firing.”

Monegan declined to say in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show what legal options, if any, he might be exploring in the wake of the findings announced late Friday in Alaska by investigator Stephen Branchflower.

Monegan did say that he and his family were pleased with the report’s conclusions.

“Actually, I feel relieved,” he said. “My wife and I have been through a lot. It’s not a matter of being revenged. It’s just strictly a matter of being relieved.” Monegan was interviewed by telephone from Alaska.

In his report Friday to a bipartisan panel that looked into the matter, Branchflower found Palin in violation of a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain. Palin has said that Monegan’s tenure as the state’s lead law enforcement officer ended because of policy differences.

The inquiry looked into the dismissal of Monegan, who said he lost his job because he resisted pressure to fire a state trooper involved in a bitter divorce and custody battle with the governor’s sister.

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

On Monday, Monegan said the controversy “really isn’t about me.”

“I think that we’re more concerned about our governor,” he added, “and I think she took a big blow to her credibility and more significantly to her promises of being open and transparent.”

Asked how he planned to vote in the November elections, Monegan said he didn’t want to say, telling his interviewer that’s why they “put those little curtains around” the polling booth.

Most would agree that Monegan is truly a class act. And the story of who Sarah Palin chose to replace him is one I covered quite a bit before Sarah’s VP nod. Chuck Kopp stepped into the very big shoes of Walt Monegan, and remained there for two whole weeks before slinking away with a $10,000 severance check, embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal. He wasn’t properly vetted. Is anyone surprised?

Aside from what it says about Sarah and Todd Palin, the Trooper-Gate report also appears to paint Mike Tibbles — the governor’s former chief of staff, who’s now running Ted Stevens’ Senate re-election campaign — as shockingly incompetent. And that’s the best case scenario for Sarah Palin.

To explain: Steve Branchflower writes on page 113 of the report that Walt Monegan told him about a conversation between Monegan and Tibbles, shortly after Palin was inaugurated as governor in January 2007. According to Monegan, Tibbles asked Monegan to consider hiring Chuck Kopp, formerly the police chief of Kenai, for a job in the public safety department.

As a result, said Monegan, he met with Kopp. When Monegan asked Kopp whether there was anything in Kopp’s background that Monegan should be aware of before hiring him, Kopp revealed that, as Kenai police chief, he had been reprimanded over a sexual harassment allegation, though he maintained that it was bogus.

Monegan told Branchflower that the next day, he talked to Tibbles. “I disclosed what Chuck had told me,” said Monegan. Tibbles responded that, in that case, they had “better steer clear from [Kopp] for a while.”

If by “steer clear,” Tibbles meant “Hire him to be the head of the Department of Public Safety for the State of Alaska, then they stuck to the plan.

Just two weeks later, Branchflower writes, Kopp resigned the post, when the sexual harrassment reprimand surfaced. Adds Branchflower: “Apparently, that was a fact that the governor’s office did not know about when Mr. Kopp was offered the commissioner’s job.”

Indeed, at the time, the governor’s office said publicly that at the time Kopp was hired, the governor knew of the allegation but understood it to be baseless, and was unaware of the letter of reprimand.

But the report suggests that Tibbles — who, just four days before Kopp’s hiring, was announced as Stevens’ campaign manager — did know about the reprimand, because Monegan had told him about it back in January 2007.

In other words, if Branchflower is correct, Tibbles failed to pass on to his colleagues in the governor’s office his knowledge of Kopp’s reprimand, setting them up to hire, for a high-profile position, a man with a significant black mark on his record.

It’s also possible, of course, that Branchflower has erred in writing that the governor’s office didn’t know about Kopp’s reprimand when it hired him. Perhaps Tibbles did pass along the information, but Palin and her aides, in their haste to find a replacement for Monegan, decided to overlook it and hire Kopp anyway, trusting that the issue would not resurface.

So either Palin’s chief of staff was jaw-droppingly incompetent, or she knowingly hired as the state’s top law enforcement official a man who had been reprimanded for sexual harassment, then lied to the press about it.

And when Chuck Kopp resigned his post, what did he have to say for himself? How did he apologize to the people of Alaska? “The recent media firestorm has been detrimental to the Department of Public Safety mission, the citizens of Alaska and my family,” Kopp said. “While I have been portrayed in a negative light, my personal worth is now in the person of Jesus Christ.”

A big slab of “blame the media” with a side helping of Jesus Christ. All because of a vetting problem.

So, was it:

a) incompetence

b) bad judgment followed by a cover-up

c) a and b

Have we taken this quiz before?





Countdown to Truth – Sarah Proclaims Own Innocence! Real Report Due Out Tomorrow.

9 10 2008

More developments in the Troopergate story.

Palin has become very fond of the preemptive strike.  Once again, in a less than shocking pre-emptive power play, Governor Palin’s Personnel Board has concluded Palin’s investigation of herself.  That’s right, she decided to just jump right in there and investigate herself, because the bipartisan Legislative investigation just couldn’t be impartial.  Like her.

So, drumroll please……Palin has declared herself INNOCENT!  She’s done nothing wrong!  Boy that was a nail-biter. 

But now, we leave Sarah’s Fantasy Land and come back to reality.  After overcoming every hurdle, every stonewalling tactic and every flimsy legal challenge imaginable, the report is in the hands of Legislators.   Tomorrow, the Alaska Legislative Council will decide what to do with the results of the real investigation – the one that John McCain and Sarah Palin would rather you not see.  For weeks now, Special Investigator Stephen Branchflower has been investigating Palin’s firing of the Commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan to see if she abused her power as governor to fire him because he, in turn, would not fire her ex-brother in law because of a family squabble.  Questions were also asked about the Palins’ role in what appears to be interference in a workers compensation claim filed by the ex-brother-in-law, Trooper Michael Wooten.

But before the report is released, the Legislative Council must vote to do so.  There is EXTREME pressure coming from very high in the Republican Party to keep this report from coming out.  If this report is released to the public tomorrow, it will be because of the principled bravery of a majority of members of the Legislative Council, particularly the Republicans who will have had to stand up to their own party.  And that’s where we stand.

Meanwhile, on a lighter note…

This brings us to our final installment of the Countdown to Truth, and the Top 10 Reasons the report should be released:

10: Maybe once the report comes out people will stop naming their pitbulls “Sarah” and making them wear lipstick.  Because that is just all kinds of wrong.

 

 

9: It will give Meg Stapleton the opportunity to stop lying about Walt Monegan and Troopergate, and to start lying about why Sarah Palin got her ass handed to her in the debate.

 

8: If it doesn’t come out then what will Alaska Progressive bloggers write about all weekend?

 

7: This investigation has cost Alaskans $100,000. The last time Alaskans spent that kind of money with nothing to show for it, was on exotic dancers and cocaine back in the oil drenched 1980’s.

 

6: Because the McCain campaign does not want the report to be made public, and when was the last time ANYBODY told Alaskans not to do something and we listened?

 

5: Once this report is finally out we can all stop pretending to like Dan Fagan.

 

4: The report will undoubtedly convince the Palins that they need to return home where surely they will be inspired to add yet another offspring to their brood, perhaps this one to be named “Phlegm Wingnut Palin”?

 

3: It will allow Alaskans to stop focusing on this distraction and get back to watching for Russians trying to come over the border so that we can shoo them back to where they belong.

 

2: Once it is released perhaps it can be given as reading material to poor little Bristol Palin who apparently is secreted, along with Cathy Baldwin-Johnson and hockey stud Levi Johnston, in a secret vault deep under the White House, or in a bear cache in the wilds of Wasilla, until her mother’s doomed run for Vice President comes to an end.

 

1: It will clear the name of Walt Monegan and make his mother, possibly the sweetest woman in Alaska , very happy.

 So this is the last day to send your emails urging that the report be released.  The Legislative Council will meet tomorrow at 9:00am Alaska time (1:00pm EST, 10:00am PST).  At this point it really could go either way.  Great forces are at work here, and we’ll have to just wait and see.  Thanks to all who have been helping from near and far.

Email addresses are in the comments.

 (h/t to Gryphen, our Top 10 Guy)

 





Supreme Court Refuses to Block Troopergate Investigation!

9 10 2008

(AKMuckraker slumps down in the chair with a giant exhale of breath, immediately followed by a rush of feel-good brain chemicals)

OK, I kept telling myself that I wasn’t worried.  I trust the Alaska Supreme Court.  I have lawyer friends who told me there was nothing to worry about.  And I very convincingly told others I wasn’t worried.  But after hearing the good news, I realize that….yes….I was worried.

Whew.

The Alaska Supreme Court today rejected an attempt by a group of six Republican legislators to shut down the Legislature’s investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin.

The ruling means that Steve Branchflower, the investigator hired by the Legislative Council, will release his report as scheduled on Friday.

Read the ruling HERE.

An opinion from the court will follow.

This is one hurdle overcome, but remember, the Legislative Council still needs to vote to release the results of the report to the public.  So if you’re emailing those Legislators, keep it coming.  Visit Alaskans for Truth for details and emails.