Wasilla keeps librarian, but police chief is out (2/1/1997)

Anchorage Daily NewsFebruary 1, 1997 

Editor's note: This story was originally on February 1, 1997

City librarian Mary Ellen Emmons will stay, but Police Chief Irl Stambaugh is on his own, Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin announced Friday. The decision came one day after letters signed by Palin were dropped on Stambaugh's and Emmon's desks, telling them their jobs were over as of Feb. 13.

The mayor told them she appreciated their service but felt it was time for a change. ''I do not feel I have your full support in my efforts to govern the city of Wasilla. Therefore I intend to terminate your employment ...'' the letter said.

Palin said Friday she now feels Emmons supports her but does not feel the same about Stambaugh. As to what prompted the change, Palin said she now has Emmons' assurance that she is behind her. She refused to give details about how Stambaugh has not supported her, saying only that ''You know in your heart when someone is supportive of you.''

The three met briefly at Wasilla City Hall Friday afternoon, and Palin called them twice at Stambaugh's home before making the decision.

Palin said she asked Emmons if she would support efforts to merge the library and museum operations. Emmons said she would, according to Palin.

Her conversation with Stambaugh was short, both said. He asked: ''What's the basis for this?'' and she gave no details.

The actions have caused a stir in Wasilla, a town of about 4,600. City Councilman Nick Carney, who has been an outspoken critic of Palin, said he received several calls at his home Thursday night and Friday from outraged citizens.

The sudden personnel shift is part of bigger problem of mismanagement in the city, he said, and may prompt a recall petition.

''Before, I told (people) to hold off, but now all bets are off,'' he said. ''I fail to see what good this is doing for Wasilla.''

But Councilwoman Judy Patrick said people voted change when they elected Palin and part of that is changing who is in charge.

Reached at home, Stambaugh said he still doesn't understand why he's been fired. ''There never was an appropriate response,'' he said. ''How did we not support the administration?''

Now he's talking to an attorney. While both Stambaugh and Emmons serve at the mayor's pleasure, Stambaugh said he has a contract that prohibits the city from firing him without cause.

Both Stambaugh and Emmons publicly supported Palin's opponent, long-time mayor John Stein during the campaign last fall. When she was elected, Palin questioned their loyalty and initially asked for their resignations. But Stambaugh said he thought any questions had been resolved.

Stambaugh has headed the Wasilla Police Department since it was created in 1993. Before that, he worked 22 years with Anchorage Police Department, rising to the rank of captain before retiring.

Emmons, who has been the city's library director for seven years, would not comment about the affair.

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