Palin accuses Monegan of insubordination

TROOPERGATE: Governor's lawyer attempts to clear her of misconduct in the firing.

September 15, 2008 

Walt Monegan lost his job as public safety director because he resisted Gov. Sarah Palin's budget policies and showed "outright insubordination," say papers the governor's lawyer filed Monday with the state Personnel Board.

It was Palin's strongest effort yet to snuff allegations she sacked Monegan because he refused to fire a state trooper involved in an ugly divorce with the governor's sister.

Along with the papers filed Monday were a slew of e-mails from the governor's office purporting to show Monegan's "rogue mentality" as a member of Palin's Cabinet.

In one message, the governor's budget director, Karen Rehfeld, wrote that she was "stunned and amazed" that Monegan appeared to be working with a powerful state legislator, Anchorage Republican Rep. Kevin Meyer, to seek funding for a project Palin previously had vetoed.

To coincide with Monday's filing, spokesmen for the Republican national ticket of John McCain and Palin, his vice presidential running mate, held an Anchorage press conference touting the "important new information" they said cleared Palin of misconduct in what has come to be known as Troopergate.

Monegan, reached Monday at his Chugiak home, said he was dismayed at the attack on his record as Palin's public safety commissioner.

"In my mind, I've always been a team player," he said.

He chalked up Palin's filing to an old adage: "The best defense is a good offense."

State legislators have hired a former state prosecutor to investigate whether Palin or her aides abused their powers in the Troopergate affair, which has attracted national media attention because of the governor's fast political rise.

Last week, a legislative committee voted to issue more than a dozen subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify. Palin won't get one, but her husband, Todd, will.

Ed O'Callaghan, a spokesman for the McCain-Palin campaign, said Monday the governor is "unlikely to cooperate" with the investigation.

The Palins have complained for years that state trooper Mike Wooten is still on the force, and the papers filed Monday again pound on the trooper's "documented acts of violence and other improper conduct," including what Palin contends was a threat to kill her father.

'PUBLIC ORDER AND SAFETY'

The governor's lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, argues in a 19-page brief that even if the governor had asked Monegan flatly to fire Wooten -- which she denies doing -- that wouldn't constitute a violation of the state Ethics Act "because the public generally shares a common interest in public order and safety."

The filing includes a July 17, 2007, e-mail Palin sent to Monegan in which she complains that a proposal to ban gun sales to people who make death threats wouldn't stop her former brother-in-law, Wooten, from carrying a gun.

"Amazing," the e-mail says. "And he's still a trooper, and he still carries a gun, and he still tells anyone who will listen that he will 'never work for that b----' (me) because he has such anger and distain (sic) towards my family."

Van Flein filed the papers in support of the governor's request that the Personnel Board drop an ethics complaint that Palin lodged against herself on Sept. 2.

Wooten's union also has filed an ethics complaint against Palin.

The papers filed Monday accuse Monegan, during his time as public safety commissioner, of "an escalating pattern of insubordination on budget and other key policy issues."

THE LAST STRAW

In pursuing his own goals for the Department of Public Safety, Monegan "sought out the governor's political opponents behind her back," Van Flein wrote, and in December 2007 he "unilaterally orchestrated a press conference" on his budget with state Sen. Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat who is leading the Troopergate investigation.

On May 7 of this year, Randy Ruaro, the governor's deputy chief of staff, complained in an e-mail to Rehfeld, the budget director, that Monegan's department "is constantly going off the reservation."

"The last straw" leading up to Monegan's firing, Van Flein wrote, was Monegan's planned trip to Washington, D.C., to seek funding for a new, multimillion-dollar sexual assault initiative the governor hadn't yet approved.

Monegan, in an interview Monday, said that the papers the governor's lawyer filed are selective and he's provided other documentation to the legislative investigator, Steve Branchflower, that will provide a more balanced portrayal of his time as commissioner.

As for why he was fired, Monegan said he believes it was his failure to fire trooper Wooten.

"Sadly, yes, I do," he said, citing the July 17, 2007, e-mail as the sort of tacit pressure he said he received repeatedly from Palin and her husband.


Find Wesley Loy online at adn.com/contact/wloy or call 257-4590. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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