Why is Frank Bailey still on the state payroll?
Gov. Sarah Palin's director of boards and commissions returned to work last week after a paid administrative leave of about five weeks. The governor gave him leave for his poor judgment in making a telephone call to an Alaska State Trooper lieutenant about the governor's concerns that Mike Wooten was still a state trooper.
Leave with pay. Most people call that a vacation. Now Bailey is back at work.
Bill McAllister, the governor's spokesman, said implicit in the governor's decision to put him back to work is that "he has something to offer." McAllister said Tuesday that Bailey declined to comment.
Wooten was involved in a bitter divorce battle with Gov. Palin's sister. The governor and her family accused Wooten of threats and other behavior out of line for a trooper, both before and after she became governor. An internal investigation resulted in a five-day, unpaid suspension for Wooten in 2006, before Palin became governor.
In the telephone conversation, Bailey implied that he was speaking on behalf of the governor and her husband, Todd. Bailey said they were "scratching their heads," trying to figure out why Wooten hadn't gotten the boot.
Any reasonable person who listened to the recording of that call would have to conclude that Bailey was trying to get Wooten fired on behalf of the governor and her husband.
The phone call was out of line. Gov. Palin said it was out of line, and both she and Bailey said that Bailey made the call on his own initiative, not on any orders from the governor.
Bailey should have resigned in August. Or the governor should have fired him. His act flew in the face of the governor's earlier claims that no one in her administration had pressured anyone to fire Wooten.
Alaskans might be scratching their heads over how a public servant can step so far out of line, give the lie to the governor's claims that there was no pressure on the Department of Public Safety to fire Wooten, and then go back to work after a paid break.
By way of explanation, McAllister pointed out that "Mike Wooten returned to work after being placed on leave." (Wooten's five-day suspension was unpaid.)
It's hard to tell what the point of the comparison is -- their guy got to go back to work, so our guy does too? Or is the administration now promoting a spirit of forgiveness on Troopergate to let bygones be bygones and thus make a virtue of stonewalling?
Troopergate has become a politicized mess seasoned with legal confusion. But one point of clarity has remained since Bailey's call was disclosed in August. He should resign. Or be fired.
BOTTOM LINE: Frank Bailey should resign.