Far from being the good-government “reformer” that Republicans have attempted to present her as, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has governed in an abusive manner that violated the public trust and the statutes of the state.
So concluded special investigator Steve Branchflower, a veteran Anchorage prosecutor who was hired by Alaska’s Republican-controlled legislature to investigate Palin’s firing in July of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. The firing caused a firestorm in Alaska because Monegan, a former Anchorage police chief was a highly-regarded lawman and because the public service commissioner and other state officials suggested that he had been removed because he refused to dismiss Mike Wooten, a state trooper was the governor’s former brother-in-law.
Alaska’s Republican-dominated Legislative Council, which authorized the investigation of Palin’s wrongdoing, voted unanimously to release the 263-page report in which Branchflower writes:
“I find that Governor Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52 110(a)of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Alaska Statute 39.52 110(a) provides:
The legislature affirms 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 said the evidence he gathered in the course of a two-a-half-month inquiry led to the conclusion that “Governor Palin and Todd Palin and her family have, over an extended period of time, endeavored to get Trooper Michael Wooten fired from his job as an Alaskan State Trooper.”
Branchflower does not dispute that, as governor, Palin had the authority to fire Monegan. Alaska’s Constitution, written in the 1950s at a time Alaskans were seeking statehood status, created an extremely strong governorship, with what the investigator describes as “broad” authority to appoint and dismiss state department heads.
But, even if Palin used powers vested in her as governor, she did so in a manner that put her in conflict with the ethics act. How so? Branchflower determined that Monegan’s refusal to do the governor’s personal bidding — and fire Wooten — was “likely a contributing factor” in her decision to remove him from his position.
“The evidence supports the conclusion that Governor Palin, at the least, engaged in ‘official action’ by her inaction if not her active participation or assistance to her husband in attempting to get Trooper Wooten fired [and there is evidence of her active participation],” concludes Branchflower.
Specifically, the investigator writes, “The governor knowingly… permitted [husband] Todd Palin to use the Governor’s office and the resources of the Governor’s office … in an effort to find some way to get Trooper Wooten fired.”
Governor Palin, who once welcomed the “Troopergate” inquiry and demanded that the legislature “hold me accountable,” refused to cooperate with Branchflower after she accepted the Republican vice presidential nomination. Branchflower’s report details the many roadblocks placed in the way of his investigation by Palin and her appointees, especially Alaska Attorney General
McCain campaign operatives and associates of former White House political czar Karl Rove made a number of moves to shut down the inquiry. But Republican legislators in Alaska refused to do so.
The Legislative Council’s unanimous vote to release the report, which came after seven hours of deliberation, was the latest evidence of the determination of the state’s legislators, Democrats and Republicans, to check and balance an abusive executive who now seeks to move from the state to federal level of government.