A feud within the family of Gov. Sarah Palin spilled into the public Thursday with accusations she tried to get a state trooper fired and she then fired the trooper's boss because he wouldn't act on her request.
In an interview Thursday, Palin vigorously denied that her dismissal last week of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan had anything to do with her dislike of state trooper Mike Wooten, her sister's ex-husband.
"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," Palin said in a statement also released Thursday.
Monegan on Thursday said he could not talk about whether the governor ever discussed Wooten, saying it was a personnel matter. "It's the law, and I took an oath." he said.
He says he still does not know, though, why he lost his job.
The governor continues to say she dismissed Monegan and replaced him with Kenai Police chief Chuck Kopp last week because she wants a new direction for the department.
The Wooten accusation came initially on the blog of former state Rep. Andrew Halcro, who ran against Palin in the 2006 gubernatorial race and who has been a staunch critic of her and her administration since.
Later in the day, a spokesman for the troopers' labor union, the Public Safety Employees Association, held a press conference saying Wooten has been unfairly targeted by the governor's family.
The spokesman, John Cyr, also released a several-inch-thick file of the troopers' own investigation into charges from Palin, her husband, Todd, and other members of her family that Wooten committed unethical and illegal acts, which they said included drunken driving and illegal hunting.
The charges were made in 2005, as Wooten and Palin's sister were divorcing and before Palin ran for governor. They concerned Wooten's behavior in the preceding years. The acrimony continues today.
For the most part, trooper investigators found that the accusations were unsubstantiated, but in at least two cases -- Wooten's illegally killing of a moose in 2003 and his Tasering of his 11-year-old stepson -- were confirmed. The troopers later disciplined him for them.
Cyr said he released the investigation file at Wooten's request. Wooten could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Wooten and Palin's younger sister, Molly McCann, initiated their divorce in 2005 and finalized it that same year. But their case remains open as they battle over the couple's two young children, child support and visitation rights.
Sarah and Todd Palin became involved after the couple separated.
Palin was protective of her sister, according to court documents.
The Palins, at the time, encouraged the press to look into Wooten's behavior. In August 2005, Sarah Palin wrote an e-mail to then-Col. Julia Grimes, who was head of the troopers, about Wooten, calling him, "a ticking timebomb," according to an e-mail Todd Palin forwarded to the Daily News around that time.
The state troopers launched an investigation in 2005. In the end, Wooten was reprimanded for the moose and Taser incidents. Regarding the Taser, Cyr said Wooten was teaching the child about what if feels like to be hit by the stun gun. The trooper was disciplined without pay for 10 days, which was eventually, under Monegan, reduced, Cyr said.
Cyr believes Wooten is a good cop who has been unfairly targeted by people in power.
Palin said that since she took office in December 2006, the only mention she has made of Wooten to anyone in the Public Safety Department was when she sat down with Monegan at the beginning of her term to discuss her security detail.
She told Monegan that Wooten had "threatened to kill my dad and bring me down."
She told Monegan allegations of unethical and illegal behavior. But, she said, she thought that was the end of it. "I don't believe my discussion went anywhere," she said on Thursday in a phone interview.
Palin said she never has asked for another trooper investigation.
When people ask her if Wooten is her brother-in-law, she said she embarrassingly answers yes, and tells them he is the father of her niece and nephew.
Todd Palin said that since his wife took office he contacted the troopers regarding Wooten only once, in April 2007. He said Wooten was on worker's compensation for a back injury but Todd Palin saw him numerous times around Wasilla looking like he did not have a back injury -- jumping up and down at local games. Then Palin saw him 110 miles from Wasilla on a snowmobile, demonstrating what he thought was an abuse of his worker's comp. Palin took a photo and forwarded it to Wooten's boss.
On Thursday, the governor held little regard for the trooper. She and her husband said they do not believe Wooten has what it takes to be a state cop.
"Based on what I know of trooper Wooten and his threat to kill a person, saying they will 'eat an f'in bullet,' and you know he said this with a gun on his hip; knowing of his drinking in a patrol car, knowoing of his illegally killing of the moose, knowing of his Tasering I believe at that time his 11-year-old stepson; knowing of his verbal abuse of minors, my daughter. ... I would question any trooper driving a car where the logo is printed on the side of that car being 'integrity, (loyalty, and courage')."
Find Megan Holland online at adn.com/contact/mholland or call 257-4343.