In his third of four principal findings, Branchflower wrote: “although Walt Monegan’s refusal to fire Trooper Michael Wooten was not the sole reason he was fired by Governor Sarah Palin, it was likely a contributing factor to his termination as Commissioner of Public Safety. In spite of that, Governor Palin’s firing of Commissioner Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.”
Alaska’s Legislative Council released the 263-page report Friday night, as scheduled, after the Alaska Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit from six Republican legislators who demanded it be suppressed until after the Nov. 4 election. A second, longer report to the Legislative Council will not be released as it contains personnel records.
Branchflower also found that, contrary to Todd Palin’s representations, Trooper Wooten did not cheat a worker’s compensation claim; and the Alaska attorney general “failed to substantially comply” with Branchflower’s request for emails.
Gov. Palin’s use of her private email accounts to conduct state business was the subject of another hearing Friday in Anchorage Superior Court, in which a former state employee demands that Palin’s emails that deal with state business be made part of the state’s public records.
Before John McCain picked her as his running mate, Gov. Palin said she endorsed the Branchflower and promised to cooperate with it. The inquiry was approved by a bipartisan vote in the Legislature. After McCain tabbed Palin in late August, she dug in her heels and the campaign began insisting that the investigation was a Democratic political machination.
Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan says Palin fired him because he refused to fire Trooper Monegan, who had divorced Palin’s sister. Palin says she fired him because he was insubordinate.
Here are Branchflower’s four principal findings:
“Finding Number One
“For the reasons explained in section IV of this report, I find that Governor Sarah 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.’
“Finding Number Two
“I find that, although Walt Monegan’s refusal to fire Trooper Michael Wooten was not the sole reason he was fired by Governor Sarah Palin, it was likely a contributing factor to his termination as Commissioner of Public Safety. In spite of that, Governor Palin’s firing of Commissioner Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.”
“Finding Number Three
“Harbor Adjustment Service of Anchorage, and its owner Ms. Murleen Wilkes, handled Trooper Michael Wooten’s workers’ compensation claim properly and in the normal course of business like any other claim processed by Harbor Adjustment Service and Ms. Wilkes. Further, Trooper Wooten received all the workers’ compensation benefits to which he was entitled.
“Finding Number Four
“The Attorney General’s office has failed to substantially comply with my August 6, 2008 written request to Governor Sarah Palin for information about the case in emails.”
The report also states that Gov. Palin knowingly “permitted Todd Palin to use the governor’s office and the resources of the governor’s office, including access to state employees, to continue to contact subordinate state employees in an effort to find some way to get Trooper Wooten fired.” And it finds that she “knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda.”
It is unclear what, if anything, will happen next. The Legislature could censure Palin, but it unlikely to do so.
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