A new report just released -- hours before the polls open on Election Day -- exonerates Gov. Sarah Palin in the Troopergate controversy.
The state Personnel Board-sanctioned investigation is the second into whether Palin violated state ethics law in firing her public safety commissioner, and it contradicts the earlier findings by a special counsel hired by the state Legislature.
Both investigations found that Palin was within her rights to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.
But the new report says the Legislature's investigator was wrong to conclude that Palin abused her power by allowing aides and her husband, Todd, to pressure Monegan and others to dismiss her ex-brother-in-law, Trooper Mike Wooten. Palin was accused of firing Monegan after Wooten stayed on the job.
The Palins have argued that Wooten was a loose cannon who had tasered his stepson, drank beer in his patrol car, and threatened Palin's father, and that their complaints that he shouldn't be on the force were justified.
The Troopergate matter became sharply politicized after Palin was announced as Republican presidential candidate John McCain's running mate in Tuesday's election.
The report, released at a Monday afternoon press conference at the Hotel Captain Cook, presents the findings and recommendations of Anchorage lawyer Timothy Petumenos, hired as independent counsel for the Personnel Board to examine several complaints against Palin.
Petumenos wrote the Legislature's special counsel, former state prosecutor Steve Branchflower, used the wrong state law as the basis for his conclusions and also misconstrued the evidence.
His findings and recommendations include:
- There is no cause to believe Palin violated the state ethics law in deciding to dismiss Monegan as public safety commissioner.
- There is no cause to believe Palin violated the state ethics law in connection with Wooten.
- There is no cause to believe any other state official violated the ethics act.
- There's no basis to conduct a hearing to "address reputational harm," as requested by Monegan.
- The state needs to address the issue of using private e-mails for government work and to examine how records are kept in the governor's office. Palin used her Yahoo e-mail account for state business until it was hacked.