The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Politics

October 11, 2008

Troopergate: Report concludes Palin abused power as governor

By Don Hunter, Sean Cockerham and Wesley Loy — An Alaska legislative investigation has concluded that Gov. Sarah Palin abused her power in pushing for the firing of an Alaska state trooper who was once married to her sister, or by failing to prevent her husband Todd from doing so.

The report by investigator Steve Branchflower was made public late Friday by a bipartisan 12-0 vote of the Legislative Council, which authorized the investigation.

Branchflower’s report contains four findings. The first concludes that Palin violated the state’s executive branch ethics act, which says that “each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.”

Branchflower was investigating Palin’s involvement in an effort to get state trooper Mike Wooten fired. Wooten was involved in a nasty divorce from Palin’s sister. Palin and her husband, Todd, have accused Wooten of threatening Palin’s father.

The investigation also looked into whether Palin dismissed public safety commissioner Walt Monegan because he resisted pressure to fire Wooten.

The report says Palin failed to reign in her husband’s inappropriate efforts to use the governor’s office to contact trooper employees in his attempts to have Wooten fired.

“Governor Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda ... to get Trooper Michael Wooten fired,” Branchflower’s report says.

“Compliance with the code of ethics is not optional. It is an individual responsibility imposed by law, and any effort to benefit a personal interest through official action is a violation of that trust. ... The term ’benefit’ is very broadly defined, and includes anything that is to the person’s advantage or personal self-interest.”

In the second finding, Branchflower says Monegan’s refusal to fire Wooten was not the sole reason for his dismissal but that it was a “contributing factor.” Still, he said, Palin’s firing of Monegan was “a proper and lawful exercise” of the governor’s authority.

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