Sunday, August 31, 2008

Washington Post: Troopegate - Monegan to Palin: "Ma'am, I Need to Keep You At Arm's Length"

Washington Post

In his exclusive interview with the Washington Post on Friday, fired Alaska state police chief Walt Monegan detailed how Gov. Sarah Palin kept raising the issue of her ex-brother-in-law, state trooper Mike Wooten. Palin's sister, Molly, was involved in a bitter divorce and custody battle with Wooten.

Monegan, who was fired by Palin's office in July, told The Post that the subject came up when he invited the governor to a birthday party for his cousin, a state senator, in February 2007 during the legislative session in Juneau.

"As we were walking down the stairs in the capitol building she wanted to talk to me about her former brother-in-law," Monegan said in the first interview he has given since Sen. John McCain announced on Friday that Palin would be his running mate on the Republican ticket. "I said, 'Ma'am, I need to keep you at arm's length with this. I can't deal about him with you. If need be, I can talk to Todd."

Todd Palin, the governor's husband, had brought Monegan a dossier of information on Wooten compiled by Todd and a private investigator. Monegan looked at the information and determined that, "There was no new evidence, no new complaints." In 2005, when Gov. Palin's sister filed for divorce, her father had lodged several complaints with state police against Wooten: using a Taser on his 10-year-old stepson, shooting a moose without a permit and drinking beer while driving a patrol car.

An investigation sustained the allegations regarding the moose hunt and the Taser, and later also sustained the drinking charge after at first finding it unsupported. Documents say Wooten was reprimanded and suspended.

Monegan and John Cyr, chief of the troopers' union, said that Wooten's wife had obtained a permit to hunt moose but balked when she saw the prey. She handed the gun to her husband, who killed the moose. Cyr also said that Wooten told him he used the Taser on his stepson when the boy asked him to try it on him. Cyr said Wooten has a "spotless record" and no complaints in his file other than those filed by the governor's family.

After looking at Wooten's file, Monegan called Todd Palin back and said there was nothing he could do. "I tried to explain to him, 'You can't head-hunt like this,' " Monegan told The Post. " 'What you need to do is back off, because if the trooper does make a mistake, and it is a terminable offense, if can look like political interference.' "

Monegan also called Gov. Palin on her call phone. "I explained to her there as no new evidence, the issue was closed. She also was unhappy with that."

Monegan was fired by Palin's office on July 11. Her chief of staff told Monegan that the governor wanted "to go in another direction," Monegan said. "When I was let go, I was a little surprised. There was not a warning shot or anything." Gov. Palin at first denied that she or anyone in her administration had ever pressured Monegan to fire Wooten. But on Aug. 13, she acknowledged that a half dozen members of her adminstration had made more than two dozen calls on the matter to various state officials. "I do now have to tell Alaskans that such pressure could have been perceived to exist, although I have only now become aware of it," she said.

Also that day, Palin's office released a recording of a call made in February by Palin's chief of commissions, Frank Bailey, to a police lieutenant. Bailey said Palin "really likes Walt a lot, but on this issue ... she doesn't know why there is absolutely no action for a year on this issue. It's very, very troubling to her and the family."

Palin has said the Wooten made a death threat against her father.

"Wooten was not a model trooper," Monegan said. "On the other hand, the allegations pre-date her election. So, there is some issue about whether it was truly motivated by public safety concerns, or it was vindictiveness."


Extensive video's on the scandal at:

No comments: