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Trooper's union files an ethics complaint against Palin

Wesley LoyPetroleum News

The union representing state Trooper Mike Wooten has filed an ethics complaint against Gov. Sarah Palin and members of her administration charging a possible unlawful breach of Wooten's confidential personnel and workers' compensation files.

It's the latest twist in what has become the subject of global media scrutiny -- whether Palin, the newly minted Republican vice presidential candidate, abused her powers as governor to try to drive her former brother-in-law out of the trooper ranks.

Palin and her family have accused Wooten, who was involved in a messy divorce with the governor's sister, of a variety of misdeeds such as threatening her family and drinking while driving his patrol car. Palin insists she didn't use the trooper's continued employment as an excuse to fire a member of her cabinet, Walt Monegan, who supervised the troopers as commissioner of public safety.

Interest in what has become known as "troopergate" is attracting huge attention because of Palin's rocketing political fortunes.

John Cyr, executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association, said Thursday a British media organization has offered Wooten $30,000 for an interview.

"Mike Wooten is not accepting those offers," Cyr said.

But Wooten did an interview Thursday for CNN television anchor Anderson Cooper for a story to air soon, and that's the only interview Wooten plans to do, Cyr said.

The union this week lodged an ethics complaint with the attorney general's office asking for an investigation into whether Palin or her aides tapped Wooten's confidential personnel and workers' compensation files and disclosed information in an effort to jeopardize Wooten's job.

The complaint focuses on Palin aide Frank Bailey, who in February called a trooper commander on a recorded phone line and said the governor and her husband, Todd, were wondering why Wooten was "still representing the department."

On the recording, Bailey makes reference to Wooten "lying on his application," and also possibly making a false workers' compensation claim.

The trooper commander, Lt. Rodney Dial, replied to Bailey: "Frank, where did you get that information from?" Dial added that such information "a lot of times is extremely confidential."

Bailey replied: "Well, I'm a little bit reluctant to say ... ."

Palin has said Bailey's phone call was wrong and that he wasn't directed to make it. She has suspended Bailey with pay.

Thomas Van Flein, an Anchorage attorney representing the governor, said Thursday he couldn't discuss or even acknowledge a new ethics complaint.

However, he provided two documents that were produced to support the governor's own request earlier this week for a state Personnel Board investigation into the Wooten affair.

The documents are depositions that Van Flein's law firm conducted with Bailey and with another state official, Mike Monagle, who supervises workers' comp cases. Both denied they improperly accessed Wooten's files at the behest of the governor's office.

"I have never seen a workers' comp file, I have never seen a personnel file, I have never seen an employment hiring file on Trooper Wooten," Bailey said, according to the deposition.

As to the source of what he told Dial about Wooten, Bailey said: "I was basing it on candid conversations I had had with Todd regarding Trooper Wooten."

The Alaska Legislature has hired an investigator to look into troopergate and Palin's dismissal of Monegan. Although Palin said repeatedly she intended to cooperate with that investigation, she's shown resistance in recent days and a standoff seems to be building between two branches of government -- the governor's office and the Legislature.

"The governor's done nothing wrong in any of this," Van Flein said.

But Cyr said Wooten has been maligned as a trooper and he's suffering for it.


By WESLEY LOY
wloy@adn.com