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Palin ethics lapse cited

Alaska investigators say it was OK to fire a state commissioner, but her efforts against a trooper went too far.

October 11, 2008|Charles Piller and Kim Murphy | Times Staff Writers

"We have the power to investigate. We have the power to change law based on the investigation. We don't have the power to convene a grand jury, for example, and seek an indictment," Sen. Kim Elton, the Democratic chairman of the legislative council, said in a telephone interview. "We understood at the beginning that we were on a fact-finding mission, but we don't have the power to prosecute."

Twelve members of the Legislature's 14-member Legislative Council, the interim body that meets when the Legislature is not in session, deliberated in closed session over the findings for most of the day before voting unanimously to release the 263-page document publicly. Two members voted by telephone.

The council is made up of 10 Republicans and four Democrats.

Several Republican legislators had launched a legal effort to halt the inquiry, which they said had become tainted by politics after Palin's nomination to the GOP ticket.

"The whole thing was turned into a circus act," complained Republican Rep. Bob Lynn. "Sarah Palin and Todd Palin were trying to defend their family. These people were threatened by Trooper Wooten. They did what any reasonable person would do -- protect their family."

Senate President Lyda Green, a Republican who has often clashed with Palin, said further action would be up to the state personnel board, which is carrying out a separate inquiry.

"I would not want that report to my credit," she said of the findings against Palin. "The problem with power is that it's very easy to use in the wrong way. We have to leave personal business at home."

Monegan said he believed that the Palins were motivated out of emotion stemming from family issues, a phenomenon he said he had encountered frequently as a law enforcement officer.

He said the couple were especially consternated with his response to their complaint that Wooten had shot a female moose without a permit.

Upon investigation, he said, he learned that Palin's sister had a permit for the moose and was present when it was shot. In addition, he said, Gov. Palin's father had butchered the moose.

"I pointed out that there are people also involved in this incident that theoretically could also be charged," Monegan told Todd Palin. "And he said, 'I didn't want that. I only want Wooten charged.' "

Gov. Palin called a few days later. "The sole topic was Michael Wooten," Monegan said, and he told her the same thing he had told her husband.

The last direct conversation he had with the governor on the subject, he said, was on Feb. 13, 2007, on the way to a birthday celebration for a state senator.

"We were walking down the stairs, the governor mentioned to me, she says, 'I'd like to talk to you about Wooten.' And I said, 'Ma'am, I need you to keep an arm's length at this -- on this issue. And if you have further complaints on him, I can deal with Todd on it.'

"And she goes, 'That's a better idea.' "


Piller reported from Anchorage and Murphy from Seattle.

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