A costly personal, vindictive Palin vendetta? You betcha

October 18, 2008 

Let's ignore all of the emails, phone calls and sworn testimony from current employees of Governor Palin that show a bizarre obsession with getting the governor's ex brother in law fired. Lets for a minute ignore all of the evidence and assume that "Troopergate" is much to do about nothing.

Let's assume that the governor and her husband are being honest in their explanation that they were simply protecting their family and the public from a rogue trooper. Let's assume that the governor's public explanation of the phone calls to former Commissioner Walt Monegan from her, her husband and her staff were about honest outrage at a system that allows a dangerous trooper to continue carrying a badge and gun on Alaska's streets.

However, if the risk presented by Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten was so grave, why didn't Gov. Palin do anything to protect Alaskans by letting them know? After all, if this story hadn't become public as a result of Monegan getting unceremoniously fired, not one Alaskan would have been been the wiser about this supposed rogue trooper.

For the better part of thirteen months Gov. Palin, her husband and a handful of her senior staff tried to get Wooten fired through legally impermissible means. Why didn't the governor or her staff spend that time crafting a beneficial public policy that would have protected the public against this trooper as well as future rogue troopers?

If the governor, her husband and her senior staff were truly concerned about their safety or the publics safety, why didn't they propose legislation to change the way the state troopers investigate themselves?

In hindsight, it's hard to understand that after a year of relentlessly pursuing Wooten, while claiming his punishment was a "slap on the wrist" they never once considered speaking about this situation in public. This past session there were over two dozen pieces of public safety legislation where the governor could have had a public platform to inform the public of her concerns, work with lawmakers to propose solutions and change state laws not just for Wooten but for future cases of accused trooper misconduct.

Rep. Bob Roses introduced House Bill 193 that reformed the Police Standards Council. Sen. Donny Olson introduced Senate Bill 45, dealing with punishment of peace officers. Both were passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Palin without one single public word about any fears or concerns she had about Wooten or the troopers.

The governor failed to propose new legislation, offer any amendments to existing legislation or even try to negotiate changes to the state troopers' new collective bargaining agreement. These facts raise questions about just how much of this pursuit of Trooper Wooten was fear and how much was vendetta.

According to the Branchflower report, Gary Wheeler, a member of the governor's personal security detail since her election, testified under oath that Governor Palin never said she was afraid for her safety concerning Michael Wooten.

With a second investigation now under way which will yield the same evidence, the governor finds herself, her husband, as well as the state, at risk for legal damages. Ironically, it was Commissioner Walt Monegan and his Deputy Commissioner John Glass who both warned the administration early on about the liability with their obsession.

Because Trooper Wooten had already been investigated and disciplined for the conduct raised by the governor and her husband, in the absence of new information or new allegations, re-disciplining him for the same conduct was illegal. Firing him, or in this case trying to get him fired for the conduct for which he had already been disciplined under the Murkowski administration, would almost certainly guarantee that Trooper Wooten would sue the state and that he would likely prevail.

Monegan even warned Chief of Staff Mike Tibbles back in the spring of 2007, "Do you want Trooper Wooten to own your house?"

A misguided and costly personal vendetta? You betcha.


Andrew Halcro is a former Republican legislator who ran for governor in 2006 as an Independent. He hosts a radio show on 650 KENI and you can read his political blog at www.andrewhalcro.com.

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