Thursday, September 4, 2008

More Dirt

And now it starts to get really interesting . . . . . 

from CNN

(CNN) -- Aides to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin improperly obtained her former brother-in-law's state police personnel files and cited information from those records to raise complaints about the officer, the head of Alaska's state police union said Thursday.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has put an aide on leave during a probe into the firing of the public safety commissioner.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has put an aide on leave during a probe into the firing of the public safety commissioner.

"It's apparent to us that the governor or someone on her staff had direct access to his personnel file, as well as his workers' comp file, and those are protected," said John Cyr, executive director of the Alaska Public Safety Employees Association.

Palin, now the Republican candidate for vice president, is battling allegations that she sacked her public safety commissioner in July because he refused to fire Trooper Mike Wooten, her sister's ex-husband. The governor has denied any wrongdoing.

In an ethics complaint filed Wednesday, the union names the governor and three aides, one of whom cited Wooten's records in a tape-recorded call to a state police lieutenant in February. And the former commissioner, Walt Monegan, said he believes his refusal to fire Wooten led to his firing.

Monegan said no one directly demanded Wooten's dismissal, but the trooper was the subject of "constant" questions or comments "either verbally or in e-mail saying, 'Is this the kind of trooper that should be representing the troopers?' or 'This is not the kind that we want to have as a poster child.' "

"In the center of all of the controversy is Trooper Wooten's continued employment," he said. "Trooper Wooten was an irritant to her."

Palin said Monegan was sacked because of disagreements over the state budget. His firing is under investigation by the Alaska Legislature, but Palin's attorneys filed papers this week to request Alaska's Personnel Board take over the probe.

In August, Palin admitted members of her administration had contacted people in Monegan's department more than 20 times regarding Wooten since she took office in December 2006.

"The individual inquiries taken by themselves are one thing. Many of these inquiries were completely appropriate; however, the serial nature of the contacts understandably could be perceived as some kind of pressure, presumably at my direction," she said.

But in papers requesting the probe be transferred to the personnel board, Palin's lawyer called Wooten a "rogue trooper" who threatened the governor's family during a bitter divorce and custody battle. Thomas Van Flein, the governor's attorney, said it was appropriate to complain to the head of the department about a trooper the Palins believed posed a threat to their security.

Van Flein had no immediate response to the union complaint.

Palin had been complaining to state police officials about Wooten since before she became governor. In March 2006, he received a five-day suspension for drinking beer in his patrol car, illegally shooting a moose under his wife's hunting permit and using a Taser on his 10-year-old stepson "in a training capacity."

Van Flein said Wednesday the Palins were unaware any action had been taken against Wooten until after Monegan's firing.

In the February 29 call by Frank Bailey, Palin's boards and commissions director, to state police Lt. Rodney Dial, Bailey complained there had been "absolutely no action for a year on this issue." During the call, he said there was some "really funny business" about a worker's compensation claim Wooten had filed and suggested he lied about a health condition on his state police job application.

"That's extraordinary for them to reference that," Cyr said. Police application files contain results of background checks and reference letters, "and those are sealed. Even Trooper Wooten doesn't have access to those."

And during the February conversation, Dial questioned how Bailey had obtained information that was "extremely confidential."

"I'm trying to find out how it was determined by anybody that he had indicated something on his application that later was found to be not true," he said.

Bailey replied, "I'm a little bit reluctant to say." But he added, "Over in admin is where, you know, we hold workers' comp right in there."

Efforts to contact either Bailey or his attorney on Thursday were unsuccessful.

When she turned over the recording to the Legislature, Palin said she was "truly disappointed and disturbed to learn that a member of this administration contacted the Department of Public Safety regarding Trooper Wooten. At no time did I authorize any member of my staff to do so."

Palin placed Bailey on paid leave until the investigation is over.

Cyr said the union's complaint has been in the works since August 13, when the Bailey-Dial conversation was disclosed. "Of course, we had no way of knowing that Gov. Palin was tapped to be the vice president," he said

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