Gov. Sarah Palin has placed one of her aides on paid leave until an investigator finishes looking into accusations her team broke ethics or personnel rules.
The investigation stems from Palin's July firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Monegan later said he felt pressured by the governor's office to fire Palin's ex-brother-in-law, Mike Wooten, a trooper who had been locked in a child-custody battle with Palin's sister.
Palin last Wednesday revealed a phone call made by her boards and commissions director, Frank Bailey, to a trooper lieutenant.
In the call, Bailey lists various complaints about Wooten and says the governor and her husband couldn't understand why he still had a job. The governor admitted the call could be perceived as her office pressuring the Public Safety Department, but says that's not what actually happened.
On Tuesday, Palin's office announced Bailey is off the job pending an investigation by the Legislature.
"Obviously the governor is not happy with that phone call, but we don't know what the investigation is going to show in total," said Palin spokesman Bill McAllister.
Bailey's salary is $78,528 a year, according to the Department of Administration, and he will continue to draw a paycheck while suspended.
A former Alaska Airlines employee who joined Palin's campaign team at the beginning of her successful run for governor in 2006, Bailey worked under Palin as a special assistant to one of her commissioners.
Later, as director of boards and commissions, Bailey was responsible for recruiting and vetting candidates for the state's more than 100 mostly volunteer boards -- posts that can range from Board of Fish members to Superior Court judges.
As criticism of Monegan's firing mounted, a council of legislators voted to spend up to $100,000 to investigate the case for up to three months. They hired retired prosecutor Steve Branchflower.
Palin directed the Department of Law to do its own inquiry first, leading to the discovery and release of Bailey's phone call.
During the Feb. 29 call, Bailey tells trooper Lt. Rodney Dial that Palin "really likes Walt a lot, but on this issue, she feels like it's, she doesn't know why there is absolutely no action for a year on this issue. It's very, very troubling to her and the family."
Bailey couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday, but has said no one asked him to make the call.
Palin says she was shocked to hear the call but that it doesn't prove her administration pushed Monegan to fire her former brother-in-law. "He did not say Monegan needs to fire this guy," she said, adding it was "absolutely inappropriate that he appeared to be representing me."
Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said that with Bailey still a state employee, Palin "can direct him to assist Mr. Branchflower, thereby fulfilling her pledge to Alaskans to cooperate fully with the investigation."
Except for a few phone calls or visits, Bailey hasn't been at work since shortly after the phone recording was revealed, according to the governor's office.
"While there's an investigation going on, you assume innocence, but you take the person out of the mix just so there are no questions raised," McAllister said.
Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, is overseeing the investigator's work. He said the investigation will explore whether the governor's office broke ethical or personnel rules in its handling of the Wooten case -- including whether Bailey had improper access to Wooten's private records.
As for whether Bailey will lose his job if the investigator perceives wrongdoing, McAllister said that's the governor's decision.
"It's not up to Mr. Branchflower to take personnel actions. That will be the governor's call when the time comes."
Find Kyle Hopkins' political blog online at adn.com/alaskapolitics or call him at 257-4334.