Newsweek Sinks its Teeth into Troopergate.

10 09 2008

Count among the few things that have cheered me recently, this excellent article in Newsweek on the Troopergate scandal. Despite the fact that I have been following every aspect of this sordid tale available in the Anchorage media, there were a couple things I didn’t know.

Court documents show that Judge Suddock was disturbed by the alleged attacks by Palin and her family members on Wooten’s behavior and character. “Disparaging will not be tolerated—it is a form of child abuse,” the judge told a settlement hearing in October 2005, according to typed notes of the proceedings. The judge added: “Relatives cannot disparage either. If occurs [sic] the parent needs to set boundaries for their relatives.”

and later in the article

As the divorce case dragged on, the judge’s concern about family “disparagement” appeared to deepen. In an order signed Jan. 31, 2006, which granted Palin’s sister and Wooten a final divorce decree, Judge Suddock continued to express concern about attacks by Palin’s family on Wooten. The judge even threatened to curb Palin’s sister’s child custody rights if family criticism of Wooten continued.

In monitoring how a joint-custody arrangement worked out, the judge said in his order that he would pay particular attention to problems noted by a “custody investigator,” specifically “the disparagement of the father [Wooten] by the mother [Molly Hackett, Sarah Palin’s sister] and her family members.”

“It is the mother’s [Hackett’s] responsibility to set boundaries for her relatives and insure [sic] they respect them, and the disparagement by either parent, or their surrogates is emotional child abuse,” Judge Suddock wrote. He added that: “If the court finds it is necessary due to disparagement in the Mat-Su Valley [the area north of Anchorage where Palin and her extended family live], for the children’s best interests, it [the court] will not hesitate to order custody to the father and a move into Anchorage.”

Judges and custody investigators don’t threaten things like that lightly.

It’s fascinating as stories begin to emerge from the national media. Alaskans are gasping a bit. They’re not used to the national attention, and they’re not used to what it sounds like to get an objective opinion. As an Anchorage resident, I can tell you it’s hard to be objective in a town with only 94,000 households. Everyone knows everyone, or knows someone who knows them.

There were a couple things, though, that the story didn’t say. One has to do with the infamous tasering incident in which Trooper Wooten is accused of ‘tasering his 11-year old son’. When you hear about someone tasering an 11-year old, or even ‘allegedly’ tasering an 11-year old, it’s pretty hard to give them the benefit of the doubt. That’s why I was glad that the head of the Public Safety Employees Association, John Cyr, was interviewed two days ago on KUDO radio, and explained the seemingly unforgivable tasering event.

First, the incident happened when the boy asked to see what it felt like, and prove to his friends that he wasn’t a “Mama’s Boy”. Wooten agreed to do it. According to Cyr, Wooten was a taser instructor, and used a training cartridge on the lightest setting and used alligator clips on the boys shirt, rather than the usual skin contacts. The burst was less than one second. Wooten’s wife was in the room at the time, and the entire family knew of the incident. It became an issue ONLY when divorce papers were filed. Wooten acknowledged bad judgment and was disciplined.

Another accusation that gets mentioned frequently is that Wooten was drinking beer in his squad car. This charge was investigated by an independent investigator who found the charge to be “unsustained”. However, Colonel Julia Grimes, who reviewed the investigation, decided to change the finding of the report to “sustained”. She changed the report on her own and gave no reason. When John Cyr, who, in 30 years, had never seen a member of the command staff change the report asked her why she did it. She replied, “Are you willing to call Sarah Palin a liar?” He said, “yes”. She didn’t respond, and the report stayed changed.

It’s interesting to note that Grimes had received a two page typed email from Palin in 2005, calling Wooten a ‘loose canon’ and a ‘ticking timebomb’, discussing his marital infidelity and a host of accusations which have since been investigated. All allegations were settled in 2006 after a thorough investigation. The investigation resulted in a misdemeanor game violation, and improper use of state equipment. No charges or complaints have ever been filed against Wooten by any member of the public, other than the Palin family and friends, according to Cyr.

Read the email Palin sent to Col. Julia Grimes – HERE.

Palin Leaves Campaign Trail. Flees North.

4 09 2008

Well this is interesting. Chuck Todd dropped a little bombshell this afternoon.

CHUCK TODD:Well Ron, We’ve been able to see that there are a few folks who are saying [Palin is] actually going to hole up in Alaska for a little, she’s got to see her son off who’s going to be deployed to Iraq, so we may not see her on the campaign trail for a little while.

RON ALLEN: Yes she hasn’t been home for a long time, and she’s obviously got some business to deal with there.

Hole up in Alaska? I was thinking to myself after her polished but snarky performance at the Republican National Convention, “I wonder who will get the first interview?” Because obviously, questions need to happen. Nobody even knows who she is. She read one prepared statement twice in a row, and then gave a speech written by Bush’s speechwriter. Unless you’re on the internet searching compulsively for YouTube videos of obscure Palin moments in churches and assembly meetings, or diving head first in to the blogosphere, you haven’t got a clue.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the desire to see your child off as he heads to Iraq. So do thousands of other parents who are shipping children off to Iraq. I mean, I hate to be rude, but don’t you have anything else you need to be doing?? You will potentially be one heartbeat away from being commander in chief of the armed forces. Shouldn’t you be out there telling people why you think you can do that job, and earning the trust of the nation that is turning over their own sons and daughters to fight this war? Can’t the hug good-bye happen now??

There are 60 days left before the election. Track ships out on September 11th. That’s one week from now. That’s more than 10% of the available time left, that she’ll be on hiatus “holed up” in Alaska, dealing with “things”. So what’s the real story?

First, and most obviously, fleeing from the media probably sounds pretty good right about now.

Second, remember when Palin told the Alaska State Legislature through her new attorney Thomas Van Flein that she wouldn’t be around to testify because she’d be too busy? And remember when Van Flein said that she shouldn’t even be investigated by the Legislature at all, but rather by a 3-person panel which she herself appointed? And remember when she filed ethics charges against herself to force this plan to happen?

Well…TPM Muckraker talked to former Alaska Attorney General John Havelock (I know him! Good guy.) who said basically that the Legislature can investigate whatever it likes. Van Flein knows this, undoubtedly, but is trying to stall things so the ruling comes after the election on November 4, instead of on the planned date of October 31st. In addition, Frank Bailey (the guy in Palin’s administration who was tape recorded by the Troopers applying pressure to axe the governor’s ex brother-in-law, Mike Wooten) has now refused to testify. So, he will have to be subpoenaed. And now that the governor is back in this neck of the woods, does that mean she will testify? Or will she refuse too, and need to be subpoenaed?

In addition, there are new developments just breaking that the Police Officers Union of Alaska has filed an ethics complaint on behalf of…you guessed it…Trooper Mike Wooten. NBC News says:

The complaint alleges that the governor or her staff may have have improperly disclosed information from Wooten’s personnel records. The complaint alleges “criminal penalties may apply.”

This all has to do with the aforementioned phone call. Bailey, while being recorded talking to Trooper Rodney Dial, dished all kinds of personal information about Wooten – shooting the moose, driving under the influence, etc. Wooten says the only way he could have known this is by accessing his personnel file improperly.

Palin…er…The McCain Palin campaign says that there was nothing illegal here because Wooten had signed a waiver allowing a divorce attorney to look through his records. So the info went down the line from file, to divorce attorney, to Molly McCann (Palin’s sister), to Todd Palin, to Frank Bailey, to Trooper Dial, and then back to Mike Wooten….who is now filing a complaint. And Bailey does say that Todd Palin was the source of the damaging information on Wooten that he passed along. And Sarah Palin knew NOTHING about this. That’s her story and she’s stickin’ with it. Hmph.

So, there you have it. Is it legal? We’ll find out. Criminal penalties may apply.

(And McCain knew all about this, right?)

Now that you’ve slogged through all that, sit back and enjoy this excellent summary of Troopergate (minus the new developments) from ABC News. Hat tip to Gryphen at The Immoral Minority, one of my favorite local blogs, for finding the clip.

UPDATE: Palin and McCain were at a rally in Cedarburg, WI today. No sign of her here yet. I’ll update when I know more.

Palin’s Power Trip – The Plot Thickens

19 07 2008

Break out the hip waders.  The mud storm over the Governor’s mysterious termination of Walt Monegan continues, with no signs of letting up.  The more we learn, the smarmier it gets.

Recall yesterday, when Governor Sarah Palin released a statement that included the following:

To allege that I, or any member of my family, requested, received or released confidential personnel information on an Alaska State Trooper, or directed disciplinary action be taken against any employee of the Department of Public Safety, is, quite simply, outrageous.

Well, newly ex-commissioner Walt Monegan has spilled the beans, stating “They can’t fire me twice.”  According to the Anchorage Daily News, Monegan says he was pressured to fire Trooper Mike Wooten, a cop of questionable character, and ex-husband of Palin’s sister Molly.  Ugly divorces are nasty, but ugly child custody battles are nastier.  Ask anyone who’s had the misfortune of being involved in one, or knowing someone who has.  We Alaskans are now privy to more information than we ever needed or wanted to know about Mike & Molly and the divorce from Hell.  It’s all out there in black & white – Drunk driving, foul language, illegal moose hunting, extramarital affair, neighbors peeking in windows, private investigators, death threats, snowmachining on sick days, verbal abuse, and yes, dry tasering an 11-year old so he could see what it felt like. 

But the real issue at hand is:  Did Palin fire Walt Monegan because he refused to can Trooper Wooten, and settle an old personal Palin family score?

She says no.  He says maybe.  Discuss.

According to Walt Monegan, in addition to discussions with Palin herself, he was pressured by Palin’s former chief-of-staff (and current campaign manager for Sen. Ted Stevens) Mike Tibbles, Department of Administration Commissioner Annette Kreitzer, and director of boards and commissions Frank Bailey.  And what did these three have to say?  The classic trifecta:  No comment.  It never happened.  I don’t recall.

‘First Dude’ Todd Palin, who admitted having a conversation about Wooten with Monegan right after he was hired said, “I know I’ve never told him to fire Wooten.”  So….does Todd Palin actually have the power to ‘tell’ or ‘not tell’ the Commissioner of Public Safety to do ANYthing?  Disturbing also is the fact that this meeting with Monegan took place in the Governor’s office.  So, although it wasn’t “telling”, it sure sounds like “pressuring”, especially in light of the fact that calls, complaints and coversations had been occuring from the point of his hire until a month or two before his unexplained termination.

Let’s go back and parse the Governor’s statement.

To allege that I, or any member of my family, requested, received or released confidential personnel information on an Alaska State Trooper, or directed disciplinary action be taken against any employee of the Department of Public Safety, is, quite simply, outrageous.

This gets back to the telling vs. pressuring point.  No one may have “directed” that Wooten be fired, but there’s a lot of grey area, and plenty of room for inappropriate behavior on the part of the Governor, her husband, and her staff.  They march on a slippery slope.

And if, as reported, material from Wooten’s confidential Administrative Investigation file is now in the hands of Palin’s sister Molly McCann and her attorney, wouldn’t that mean, contrary to the Governor’s statement, that a member of her family DID receive confidential personnel information on an Alaska State Trooper?  So far, no one can imagine how that can possibly have happened (blink blink).  We wait for the next leak.

Speaking of parsing words… Monegan’s replacement, Chuck Kopp, answering questions about a sexual harrassment charge in his past says (my emphasis),  “There is absolutely nothing in my record that I’m ashamed of.”   Stay tuned.