Legislators meet secretly on Troopergate

October 10, 2008 

A legislative panel convened this morning to receive a report on the Troopergate affair and after 25 minutes went into a closed session to question investigator Steve Branchflower.

Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, chairman of the Legislative Council, gave no indication how long the secret session might last or when Branchflower's report might be made public.

But two lawmakers who've stepped out of the meeting briefly say it could be hours.

Senate President Lyda Green, a Wasilla Republican, and Rep. Peggy Wilson of Wrangell said the session is moving slowly.

How slow? Wilson was asked.

"Slooowwww," she said.

Each legislator, meeting at the Legislative Information Office in downtown Anchorage, had two big binders on the table in front of him or her - one green and a larger red one. They contain some 1,000 pages in all.

Before the meeting was closed to the public, Wilson said she hadn't had time to read the full report after picking up a copy Thursday night and she said she might be uncomfortable discussing it until she had.

"I spent hours on it yesterday and didn't have time to read it all," she said.

Elton agreed with Wilson, telling her he could have spent four days on the report himself. But Elton added that he was able in just a few hours to get the gist of Branchflower's findings and recommendations.

Legislators, journalists and others were greeted at the elevator outside the meeting room by a group of McCain-Palin campaign volunteers who were dressed as clowns and who said, "Welcome to the kangaroo court."

One of them tried to give state Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, a balloon twisted in the shape of a kangaroo. He declined it. Wielechowski is a member of the Judiciary Committee that subpoenaed some state officials, but he's not a member of the Legislative Council.

During the closed legislative hearing, a group of about 50 supporters of Gov. Sarah Palin stood on the sidewalk outside the legislative building. They waved signs that said "Palin Power," "Sarah's Right" and "Not Guilty," and they chanted "Go, Sarah, Go" and "Who's the best mom in the world - Sarah."

The Legislative Council hired Branchflower in early August to investigate whether Palin or members of her administration abused their powers in pushing for the firing of a state trooper, Mike Wooten, who once was married to Palin's sister, or whether their efforts resulted in the governor's dismissal of her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, in July.

There's intense nationwide interest in the investigator's findings and whether they will affect Palin's candidacy as the Republican nominee for vice president.

Find Wesley Loy online at adn.com/contact/wloy or call 257-4590. Find Sean Cockerham at adn.com/contact/scockerham or call 257-4344.

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