Serge F. Kovaleski
October 11, 2008
Gov. Sarah Palin abused the powers of her office by pressuring subordinates to try to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired, an investigation by the Alaska Legislature has concluded. The inquiry found, however, that she was within her right to dismiss her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, who was the trooper’s boss.
A 263-page report released Friday by lawmakers in Alaska found that Ms. Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, had herself exerted pressure to get Trooper Michael Wooten dismissed, as well as allowed her husband and subordinates to press for his firing, largely as a result of his temperament and past disciplinary problems.
"Such impermissible and repeated contacts," the report states, "create conflicts of interests for subordinate employees who must choose to either please a superior or run the risk of facing that superior’s displeasure and the possible consequences of that displeasure." The report concludes that the action was a violation of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.
What now lies ahead is not fully known at this point. Ms. Palin could be censured by the Legislature, but that is unlikely.
Ms. Palin, who had been elected governor in 2006, was tapped as Senator John McCain’s running mate in late August, about a month after an inquiry was opened into her firing of Mr. Monegan. Her political ascendancy took what was essentially a state personnel matter and elevated it into a national issue, one that has been simmering in the background of an increasingly heated presidential race.
In the report, the independent investigator, Stephen E. Branchflower, a former prosecutor in Anchorage, said that Ms. Palin wrongfully allowed her husband, Todd, to use state resources as part of the effort to have Trooper Wooten dismissed.