Alaska lawmakers vote to subpoena Todd Palin
Alaska lawmakers vote to subpoena Todd Palin
By GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer Sat Sep 13, 3:54 AM ET
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The abuse of power investigation against Sarah Palin, Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate, took a potentially ominous turn for her party on Friday when state lawmakers voted to subpoena her husband.
Republican efforts to delay the probe until after the Nov. 4 election were thwarted when GOP State Sen. Charlie Huggins, who represents Palin's hometown of Wasilla, sided with Democrats. "Let's just get the facts on the table," said Huggins, who appeared in camouflage pants to vote during a break from moose hunting.
The Senate committee acted at the request of investigator Stephen Branchflower, who is gathering evidence on whether Gov. Palin abused her power by firing Walt Monegan, the state's director of public safety. Critics charge she fired Monegan after he refused to dismiss Mike Wooten, a state trooper who had a messy divorce from the governor's sister. Palin says Monegan was let go because of a budget dispute.
Thomas Van Flein, the Palins' private attorney now representing her as governor, did not immediately return calls for comment. In a broadcast interview, Palin said she welcomed the investigation.
"There's nothing to hide," she said in an interview with ABC's Charles Gibson. "Commissioner Monegan has said, 'The governor never asked me to fire him, the governor's husband never asked me to fire him,' and we never did. I never pressured him to hire or fire anybody."
Branchflower said he wants to interview the governor, but omitted her from the 13-person list of subpoena targets he presented to the lawmakers overseeing his investigation.
He said Todd Palin is "such a central figure. ... I think one should be issued for him."
Palin, cast at last week's Republican National Convention as a supportive husband, oil rig worker and championship snowmachine racer, has emerged in the days since as also a powerful figure in his wife's administration. Despite holding no government position, he attends official meetings and is copied on e-mails concerning state business.
While Todd Palin's role in the dismissal of Monegan is unknown, the request for a subpoena suggests he spurned earlier calls to testify voluntarily. Monegan voluntarily submitted to an interview earlier in the week.
Nor was it immediately clear whether Van Flein was representing Todd Palin as well as the governor in the investigation. Van Flein is working at taxpayer expense to represent the governor in her personal and official capacity.
The subpoenas, which were approved for 12 state employees in addition to Todd Palin, instantly gave a new, national significance to what until recently was a controversy confined to Alaska.
The McCain campaign released a statement from Alaska Lt. Governor Sean Parnell, blaming Democrats.
"I'm disappointed by the complete hijacking of what should be a fair and objective process," the Republican said, calling the investigation a "smear."
The investigation — dubbed "Troopergate" — began before Palin was chosen as Sen. John McCain's running mate. Since then, Palin's supporters have argued that the investigation is politically motivated, and urged lawmakers to turn the matter over to the three-member State Personnel Board, which is appointed by the governor and charged with handling ethics complaints.
In his presentation to lawmakers, Branchflower revealed evidence that the governor's office interceded to try to have Wooten's worker's compensation claim denied.
An employee at a company that handles such claims for the state, Harbor Adjustment Service, told Branchflower that the company's owner said "the governor's office wanted the claim denied."
One of the subpoenas issued Friday was for the company's owner, Murlene Wilkes. Branchflower said he had an informal conversation with Wilkes in August, and believes she was lying when she said she had never been contacted by the governor's office. Wilkes did not immediately return a telephone call.
Monegan says he received repeated e-mails and phone calls from Palin, her husband and her staff expressing dismay over Wooten's continued employment.
One member of Palin's administration was caught on tape discussing personal information about Wooten, raising questions of how he knew those details.
Branchflower also asked for a subpoena for the phone records of one Palin administration official, Frank Bailey. Bailey was recorded calling an Alaska State Trooper lieutenant and discussing confidential information about Wooten, including his job application and worker's compensation claim. In a deposition taken by Palin's attorney, he testified that he never saw Wooten's file, but instead received the information from Todd Palin.