Thursday, September 11, 2008

Civic Leader in Palin's Hometown Paints Unflattering Portrait of Alaska Governor


In a Lengthy Essay, Anne Kilkenny Sharply Challenges GOP Vice-Presidential Nominee's Claim of Being a Fiscal Conservative; Says Palin Bloated Wasilla's Budget by Over 33 Percent -- and Raised Taxes by 38 Percent -- in a Multi-Million-Dollar Spending Spree During Her Stormy Six-Year Tenure as Mayor

Anne Kilkenny of Wasilla, who participated in the Conference of Alaskans in 2004, said she didn't mean for her e-mail appraisal of Sarah Palin to be spread, but it was all over the Internet soon after she sent it to family and friends the day after John McCain picked Palin as his GOP  vice-presidential running mate.

Anne Kilkenny, a longtime resident of Governor Sarah Palin's hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, is a longtime civic leader and observer of local politics who has known the governor and former mayor for 16 years. In a reply to numerous requests from relatives and friends from outside the state for information on Palin the day after John McCain picked her as his GOP vice-presidential running mate, Kilkenny wrote a lengthy e-mail appraisal of her that wasn't intended to be made public. But after she e-mailed it to her relatives, it spread like wildfire across the Internet and generated a tsunami of responses. (Photo: Erik Hill/Anchorage Daily News)


(Posted 5 a.m. Thursday, September 11, 2008)

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SPECIAL REPORT
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By S.J. KOMARNITSKY
Anchorage Daily News


WASILLA, Alaska -- At 3 a.m. last Thursday, Anne Kilkenny unglued herself from her computer and went to bed after spending hours answering an endless string of e-mails from strangers.

By 9:15 the next morning, she had 382 fresh ones in her inbox and her phone was steadily ringing with calls from news media from all around the world.

That's how it's been the past week for the stay-at-home mom turned accidental celebrity. All because of a letter she wrote to friends and family about Sarah Palin.


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HUCKABEE SAYS MCCAIN CAMP 'WAY OUT OF LINE' WITH 'LIPSTICK ON A PIG' ATTACKS ON OBAMA, TELLS MCCAIN TO COOL IT -- Click Here
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The 2,400-word e-mail, circulated on blogs, Web sites and through e-mail chains, has become an Internet hit embraced by many Democrats and Palin critics and attacked by Republicans and Palin supporters [The Kilkenny e-mail appears in full below.].

In all the coverage of Palin, the Kilkenny e-mail offers something maybe unique: a critique from someone who has known Palin since 1992 and has been observing her up close for years, long before Palin even became widely known in Alaska.

"Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis," the e-mail begins. "Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child's favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99 percent of the residents of the city."

Kilkenny, a registered Democrat, sent the note on August 30, the day after Republican presidential candidate John McCain picked Palin to be his vice-presidential running mate. She said she sent it to 30 relatives and friends outside Alaska to answer questions she was getting about Palin.

She signed her name and asked that it not be posted, but it went viral across the Internet almost instantly.

A FLOOD OF E-MAILS, PHONE CALLS WITHIN 24 HOURS

Within a day, she was getting e-mails from strangers saying, "I saw your blog."

"I was like, 'Blog? What blog?' " Kilkenny said.

Over the past week, Kilkenny's e-mail has been posted, re-posted and re-posted again -- everywhere from the Atlantic Monthly to a blog called "earthymommies."

By mid-week, Kilkenny had given up keeping up with her e-mails. "I didn't drink my morning cup of coffee until 3:20 in the afternoon," she said.

A Google search for "Kilkenny Palin" on Saturday turned up 21,000 hits. She's been interviewed by National Public Radio and The New York Times. TV news producers have been scrambling to find her.

WEB EDITOR STRUCK BY TONE OF KILKENNY'S ASSESSMENT

Crosscut, a Seattle-based online journalism site, is among those who have picked up the e-mail. Publisher David Brewster, who was e-mailed the letter by a friend, said he was struck by Kilkenny's tone and her firsthand experience from attending city council meetings while Palin was mayor.

"Here's a person who didn't just jet in and talk to three people on one day, but has been in the town and watched it very carefully," he said.

The letter also lacked the strident tone many adopt, he said.

"It didn't have a sort of prosecutorial throw-everything-at-her [Palin] tone," he said. "It was kind of an ordinary citizen activist trying to be fair and trying to be candid."

Kilkenny said she tried hard to be factual and is careful in the letter to be upfront about what she knows and doesn't know. Her experience comes from being a longtime Wasilla resident and from attending almost every City Council meeting the first year Palin was mayor in 1996.

She said she worked and reworked the letter to add things as people have asked more questions, deleted things that sounded too much like speculation and tried to keep it balanced with both positive and negative information.

"It's not to make her look bad. It's not to make her look good. It's just to make her what she is," she said.

PALIN'S TENURE AS MAYOR STORMY, KILKENNY SAYS

In the letter, she lauds the former mayor as smart, hardworking and savvy. But, she says, far from being a fiscal conservative, Palin left Wasilla in debt, was intolerant of "divergent opinions" and "has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help."

Much of what Kilkenny states has been pointed out by others in news stories. Palin, on the national pulpit, has lauded herself as a fiscal conservative who cut government budgets. But as mayor and governor she presided over growing budgets. Some of her information has received less attention.

As mayor, as Kilkenny notes, Palin benefited enormously from a sales tax passed by the previous mayor John Stein, whom she defeated in a bitter campaign in which she derided him as a "good ole boy." That sales tax, passed to fund the police force, left the city flush with so much cash Palin was able to cut property taxes and still have revenues increase.

Some of the claims are hard to substantiate, including that Palin tried to fire the city librarian because she refused to consider removing books from the shelves. Palin did send a termination letter to the librarian, but it was unclear whether books were involved in that decision. At the time, Palin noted the librarian had supported her opponent in the election.

Kilkenny also admits some of what she says is open to interpretation. While she notes, for example, that Palin increased city expenditures, others in online comments have noted that the local population was exploding at the time so the budget naturally grew.

A FEW COMPLAINTS

Kilkenny says many of the e-mails she's received want to know if she is for real.

"'Are you you?' they ask," she said.

While most has been positive, a small minority has been critical, she said.

"Wow. Did Palin steel [sic] your man or what?" one wrote to her.

"You have an agenda and you should go to hell," wrote another.

Others have accused her of being a tool for the Democrats. She is a longtime registered Democrat, BUT She said her motivation in writing the letter was simply for people to be informed.

"How's anyone to know if the people who do know don't say anything?" she said.

# # #

(The following is the full text of Anne Kilkenny's much-talked-about e-mail about her hometown's former Mayor -- now Governor -- Sarah Palin, the GOP vice-presidential nominee. It is being presented by The 'Skeeter Bites Report as a public service for those who may not have read it. -- Skeeter Sanders, Editor & Publisher)

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THE SARAH PALIN I KNOW
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By ANN KILKENNY


I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah Palin since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis.

Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child's favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99 percent of the residents of the city.

She is enormously popular; in every way she's like the most popular girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice and won't vote for her can't quit smiling when talking about her because she is a "babe."

It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents for seven months.

She is "pro-life." She recently gave birth to a Down's Syndrome baby. There is no cover-up involved, here; Trig is her baby.

She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.

She is savvy. She doesn't take positions; she just "puts things out there" and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.

Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin's kind of job is highly sought-after because of the schedule and high pay.

He arranges his work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their major source of income. Nor has her life-style ever been anything like that of native Alaskans.

Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters.

She's smart. Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000 (at the time) and less than two years as governor of a state with about 670,000 residents.

PALIN AS MAYOR: BIGGER BUDGETS, HIGHER TAXES

During her mayoral administration, most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign.

Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a "fiscal conservative". But during her six years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33 percent. During those same six years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38 percent.

This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002).

She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.

The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren't enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million.

What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a new library? No.

MILLONS SPENT ON PET PROJECTS

$1 million for a park. $15 million-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece of property that the city didn't even have clear title to, that was still in litigation seven years later -- to the delight of the lawyers involved!

The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community, but it's a huge money pit, not the profit-generator Palin claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5 million for road projects that could have been done in five to seven years without any borrowing.

While Palin was mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once.

These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.

AN UNFLATTERING VIEW OF PALIN'S RECORD AS GOVERNOR

As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus in Alaska. But rather than invest this surplus in technology that will make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as governor, Palin proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.

In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, Governor Palin recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while she proposed distribution of surplus state revenues: spend today's surplus, borrow for needs.

Palin's not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas or compromise. As mayor, she fought ideas that weren't generated by her or her staff. Ideas weren't evaluated on their merits, but on the basis of who proposed them.

CENSORSHIP BATTLE, CRONYISM -- AND A NIXON-LIKE 'ENEMIES LIST'

While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla, she tried to fire our highly respected city librarian because the librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed.

City residents rallied to the defense of the librarian and against Palin's attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the librarian are on her "enemies" list to this day.

Sarah complained about the "old boy's club" when she first ran for Mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of "old boys." Palin fired most of the experienced staff she inherited.

At City Hall and as governor, she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal -- loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the state's top cop.

As mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla's police chief because he "intimidated" her, she told the press. As governor, her recent firing of Alaska's top cop has the ring of familiarity about it.

'TROOPERGATE' SCANDAL

He served at her pleasure and she had every legal right to fire him, but it's pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn't fire her sister's ex-husband, a state trooper.

Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than two dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired [Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan], pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law [Michael Wooten].

She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support.

A HISTORY OF RUTHLESS BETRAYAL. . .

Sarah has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council member who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected mayor.

She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn't like the guy were stunned by her ruthlessness.Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.

When then-Governor [Frank] Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got the best, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: one of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no background in oil and gas issues.

But within months of scoring this great job -- which paid $122,400 a year -- Sarah was complaining in the press about the high salary! I was told that she hated that job -- the commute, the structured hours, the work.

. . .AND HYPOCRISY ON 'PORK-BARREL' EARMARKS

Sarah became aware that a member of this commission (who was also the state chair of the Republican Party) engaged in unethical behavior on the job. In a gutsy move which some undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all her problems in one fell swoop: she got out of the job she hated and garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a gutsy fighter against the "old boys' club" when she dramatically quit, exposing this man's ethics violations (for which he was fined).

As mayor, Sarah had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him.

She only opposed the "bridge to nowhere" after it became clear that it would be unwise not to.

As governor, Palin gave the Legislature no direction or budget guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing projects, calling them "pork." Public outcry and further legislative action restored most of these projects, which Palin vetoed simply because she was not aware of their importance.

But to the unobservant, she had gained a reputation as "anti-pork."

Sarah is solidly Republican; no political maverick. The state GOP leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a "fiscal conservative."

NO WONDER THEY CALL HER 'SARAH BARRACUDA'

Around Wasilla there are people who went to high school with Sarah. They call her "Sarah Barracuda" because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness.

Long before she became so powerful, very ugly stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah's mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and experienced manager, ran for mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.

As governor, Sarah stepped outside of the box and put together of package of legislation known as AGIA [Alaska Gas Inducement Act] that forced the oil companies to march to the beat of her drum.

AN ARCH-ENEMY OF THE ENVIRONMENT

Like most Alaskans, Palin favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to global warming. She campaigned "as a private citizen" against a state initiaitive that would have either a) protected salmon streams from pollution from mines, or b) tied up in the courts all mining in the state (depending on who you listen to).

She pushed the state's lawsuit against the federal Interior Department's decision to list polar bears as threatened species.

McCain is the oldest person to ever run for president. Think about that. If McCain wins, Sarah will be a heartbeat away from being president.

There have to be literally millions of Americans who are more knowledgeable and experienced than she is.

However, there are a lot of people who have underestimated her and are regretting it.

CLAIM VS. FACT

"Hockey mom": True for a few years

"PTA mom": True years ago when her first-born was in elementary school, not since.

"NRA supporter": Absolutely true.

"Social conservative: Mixed. Opposes gay marriage, but vetoed a bill that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships (She said she did this because it was unconstitutional).

"Pro-creationism: Mixed. Supports it, but did nothing as governor to promote it.

"Pro-life": Mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down's Syndrome baby but declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life legislation.

"Experienced": Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska. No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city administrator to run town of about 5,000.

"Political maverick": Not at all.

"Gutsy": Absolutely!

"Open & transparent": Are you kidding??? Good at keeping secrets. Not good at explaining actions.

Sarah has a developed philosophy of public policy:

Greenie? No way. She turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big-box stores and disconnected parking lots. She's pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.

Fiscal conservative? Not by my definition!

Pro-infrastructure? Nope. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built streets to early 20th century standards.

Pro-tax relief? Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on residents.

Pro-small government? No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city government in Wasilla's history.

Pro-labor/pro-union? No. Just because her husband works union doesn't make her pro-labor. I have seen nothing to support any claim that she is pro-labor/pro-union.

WHY AM I WRITING THIS?

First, I have long believed in the importance of being an informed voter. I am a voter registrar. For 10 years, I put on student voting programs in the schools. If you Google my name (Anne Kilkenny + Alaska), you will find references to my participation in local government, education, and PTA/parent organizations.

Second, I've always operated in the belief that "Bad things happen when good people stay silent." Few people know as much about Sarah Palin as I do because few have gone to as many City Council meetings.

Third, I am just a housewife. I don't have a job she can bump me out of. I don't belong to any organization that she can hurt. But, I am no fool; she is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will cost me somehow in the future. That's life.

Fourth, Sarah has hated me since back in 1996, when I was one of the 100 or so people who rallied to support the city librarian against her attempt at censorship.

Fifth, I looked around and realized that everybody else was afraid to say anything because they were somehow vulnerable.

A FEW CAVEATS

I am not a statistician. I developed the numbers for the increase in spending and taxation two years ago -- when Palin was running for governor -- from information supplied to me by the Finance Director of the City of Wasilla, and I can't recall exactly what I adjusted for. Did I adjust for inflation? for population increases?

Right now, it is impossible for a private person to get any info out of City Hall -- they're swamped. So I can't verify my numbers.

You may have noticed that there are various numbers circulating for the population of Wasilla, ranging from about 5,000, up to 9,000. The day Palin's election victory was announced a city official told me that the current population is about 7,000.

The official 2000 census count was 5,460. I have used about 5,000 because Palin was mayor from 1996 to 2002 and the city was growing rapidly in the mid-90's.

Anne Kilkenny,August 31, 2008

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Volume III, Number 54
Special Report Copyright 2008, McClatchy Newspapers Inc.
The 'Skeeter Bites Report Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.







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Monday, September 08, 2008

Palin Accused of Stonewalling as 7 Aides Refuse to Testify in 'Troopergate' Probe


Legislative Panel to Issue Subpoenas to Compel Testimony, Rejecting a Demand to Stop Inquiry into Alleged Abuse of Power by Palin in Firing of State's Top Cop; State Police Union Charges Palin Broke Confidentiality Rules by Disclosing Personnel Records of Former Brother-in-Law in Failed Effort to Get Him Kicked Off the Force




A state legislative committee will issue subpoenas this week after seven top aides to Governor Sarah Palin -- now the Republican vice-presidential nominee -- refused to testify before the panel about what they knew about the firing of former Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan (left). Monegan says he was fired because he had resisted pressure from Palin to fire Alaska State Police trooper Michael Wooten (right), Palin's former brother-in-law. Meanwhile, the union representing Wooten has filed an ethics complaint with the state attorney general's office, accusing the Palin administration of violating state employee confidentiality rules by disclosing Wooten's personnel records. (Photos: Anchorage Daily News)


(Posted 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, 2008)

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NOTE TO READERS:
Beginning this week, The 'Skeeter Bites Report is expanding its regular publication schedule to twice weekly, with new articles published every Monday and Thursday. The expansion is in response to numerous reader requests for more coverage of the presidential campaign and for more frequent international stories.

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By SKEETER SANDERS


Just days after emerging from the Republican National Convention in Minnesota as the newly-minted GOP vice-presidential nominee, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin could find herself dragged down by a rapidly-exploding, Watergate-style scandal back home -- which could, in turn, derail John McCain's campaign to win the White House.

Amid mounting criticism of the governor for allegedly "stonewalling" an investigation of her controversial firing of the state's top cop, the Legislative Council, a joint House-Senate committee appointed by the Alaska Legislature to investigate the dismissal, will vote this week -- perhaps as early as today (Monday) -- to issue subpoenas after one of Palin's chief aides last week refused to testify before the panel.

At least six other top aides to the governor have also refused to testify.

Meanwhile, The union representing the state trooper at the center of the controversy, Michael Wooten, filed an ethics complaint Thursday with the state attorney general's office against Palin and members of her administration, charging an illegal breach of state employees confidentiality rules.

The Public Safety Employees Association charges that the Palin administration illegally "data-mined" Wooten's confidential personnel and workers' compensation files and disclosed sensitive information in an effort to jeopardize Wooten's job.

COURT FIGHT LOOMS OVER SUBPOENAS TO SEVEN PALIN AIDES

A private attorney hired by Palin to represent her administration has strongly hinted that he might sue to stop the Legislature's probe, on the grounds that it has no authority to investigate the firing. If he does, it could lead to a protracted court battle that would likely end up in the Alaska Supreme Court.

Such a confrontation would inevitably draw comparisons to the legal battle in the early 1970s between Congress and then-President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal over secret tape recordings made in the White House, a fight that was ultimately settled by the U.S. Supreme Court -- and led to Nixon's resignation in 1974.

The Legislature is expected to give the Legislative Council full subpoena power after Frank Bailey, the governor's director of boards and commissions, abruptly balked Wednesday at testifying before the panel, which is investigating whether Palin abused her gubernatorial authority in her dismissal of Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan in July.

Monegan has accused Palin of firing him in part because he had refused to fire Wooten, who is Palin's former brother-in-law and whom the Palin family considers "dangerous" and a "loose cannon" following a bitter divorce from Molly McCann, the governor's sister.

Bailey backed out from giving testimony at the advice of his lawyer after Thomas Van Flein, the attorney representing Palin and others in the governor's office, challenged the Legislature's authority to investigate her firing of Monegan, insisting that it is a personnel matter that properly should be handled administratively.

Bailey is the seventh top aide to the governor who has refused to testify before the council. All seven are considered by lawmakers to be "key witnesses" in the investigation and all seven are expected to be issued subpoenas to compel their testimony.

The other six are Dianne Keisel, a manager at the state human resources department; Annette Kreitzer, the governor's commissioner of administration; Nicki Neal, director of personnel and labor relations; Kris Perry, manager of the governor's Anchorage office; Karen Rehfeld, the governor's budget director; and Brad Thompson, manager of state risk management.

Perry was also the manager of Palin's 2006 gubernatorial campaign.

GOVERNOR WON'T BE SUBPOENAED, BUT PANEL STILL WANTS TESTIMONY

State Senator Hollis French (D-Anchorage), chairman of the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee and the manager of the council's probe said, however, that Palin herself will not be subpoenaed -- a gesture aimed at calming what has become an increasingly rancorous constitutional standoff between the Legislature and the governor in what has become known in the local and national media as "Troopergate."

"We're trying to de-escalate the situation. We just want the truth, clear the air," French said. However, the lawmakers still want their chief investigator to interview Palin.

Bailey's attorney, Greg Grebe, acknowledged Thursday that he advised his client not to testify before the Legislative Council, telling the Anchorage Daily News that he learned that the governor's office was contesting the Legislature's jurisdiction.

"It's my understanding that they believe the jurisdiction [rests] properly with the state Personnel Department. I can't make a judgment or a call on that," Grebe said. He insisted, however, that once the jurisdictional dispute is settled, Bailey would "fully cooperate" with the investigation.

"I don't want him [Bailey] to be a political football being used by one side or the other and being inconvenienced in all of this hoopla," Grebe added. "I want it done once and I want it done right."

ATTORNEY FOR PALIN SAYS PERSONNEL BOARD HAS SOLE JURISDICTION

Van Flein argued that only the Alaska Personnel Board has the authority to look into what he considers a personnel matter involving the governor and wants the Legislature's probe stopped.

The Alaska Personnel Board is a three-member administrative panel, all of whom are appointed by the governor for six-year terms.

One board member, Deborah English of Anchorage, was reappointed by Palin in January, according to the Alaska state government Web site. Board member Laura Plenert of Ketchikan, is up for reappointment in 2010; the third member, Alfred Tamagni, Sr. of Anchorage, is up for reappointment in 2012.

All three were appointed by Palin's Republican predecessor, Frank Murkowski. The state's Web site did not list the board members' party affiliations, but under state law, no more than two board members can be of the same party.

"We have been retained to represent the Governor and the Governor's Office relative to the Legislative Council's investigation into the termination of Mr. Monegan," Van Flein wrote in a letter to Steve Branchflower, the independent counsel hired by the Legislature to look into the firing.

Van Flein also asked the committee to provide copies of all witness statements, documents and other materials collected in the course of the investigation.

LAWMAKER QUESTIONS PALIN LAWYER'S MOTIVES

But French, a former state prosecutor, vowed that the panel's work will continue and challenged Palin's motivation to have the investigation halted.

"Governor Palin has repeatedly stated that she has nothing to hide and that she and her administration will cooperate fully with this investigation," French wrote in a response letter to Van Flein. "Is your client aware that you seem to be challenging the Legislature's jurisdiction?"

The Alaska state constitution is silent on whether the Legislature has oversight authority over the actions of the executive branch. But the constitution bars the governor from authorizing "any action or proceeding against the Legislature" other than to veto bills passed by the lawmakers.

French also rejected Van Flein's request for documents and said he had instructed Branchflower not to provide them. "I think you will agree that it would be highly unusual for an investigator to share information with one of the targets of the investigation," French wrote. "I am unaware of any precedent for such an arrangement."

The lawmakers also decided to move up the date for Branchflower to complete the probe and issue his report, from October 31 to October 10, to avoid the appearance of a last-minute "October Surprise" impacting the November 4 presidential election, according to state Representative Jay Ramras (R-Fairbanks), chairman of the Alaska House Judiciary Committee.

In an interview with ABC News, French said that the investigator's report, once it is published, was "likely to be damaging to the governor’s administration. The governor first issued a blanket denial, but now she’s had to back down and that’s a problem. She has a credibility problem."

GOVERNOR ACCUSES WOOTEN OF THREATENING HER FAMILY

At the heart of the controversy is Wooten's bitter divorce from McCann and its subsequent fallout. The governor has accused Wooten of threatening her father, Charles Heath, of using a Taser stun gun on his stepson and of driving his patrol car while intoxicated.

"I feel strongly that Wooten is a loose cannon," Palin wrote to the state police in April 2005, when she was mayor of her hometown of Wasilla. "He's a ticking time bomb, as others describe him, and I am afraid his actions do not merely reflect poorly on the state, but his actions may cause someone terrible harm."

Court papers on file in the 2004 divorce and custody battle between Wooten and McCann show that on one occasion, McCann sought a restraining order against Wooten for domestic violence, alleging that he was a threat to her children -- a charge Wooten denied.

An Alaska Family Court judge subsequently dismissed the domestic violence complaint, but then issued an order limiting contact between the couple. Wooten was subsequently suspended from the state police briefly in 2005 for using the Taser gun on his then-ten-year-old stepson and for illegally shooting a moose.

WOOTEN ADMITS 'I MADE MISTAKES,' BUT DENIES MAKING THREATS

In an interview broadcast Friday on CNN, Wooten acknowledged that he "made some mistakes" and is "feeling stress" from having his problems with the Palin family "splashed across the national news media."

Wooten denied allegations that he made threats against his ex-wife's father, that he holds no ill will toward the governor and that he is "actually excited" by her high-profile role as the GOP's vice-presidential nominee.

Palin adamantly insists that Wooten had nothing to do with her dismissal of Monegan, saying that she fired him because she wanted the state police to "go in a new direction" with new leadership and denied that either she or any of her staff had taken any action to try to persuade Monegan to fire Wooten.

Yet earlier this month, Palin was forced to acknowledge that half a dozen members of her administration had made more than two dozen telephone calls to state officials on the matter, after telephone-company records documenting the calls were made public. Nonetheless, the governor insisted she was not aware of the communications until after the records' disclosure.

POLICE UNION'S COMPLAINT INCLUDES TAPED CONVERSATION

In its ethics complaint, the Public Safety Employees Association asked the state attorney general's office to investigate whether the Palin administration violated rules protecting the confidentiality of state employees' personnel records.

The union charges that the either the governor herself or her aides illegally "data-mined" Wooten's confidential personnel and workers' compensation records and disclosed information in an effort to get Wooten fired.

The complaint includes a tape recording of a telephone conversation about Wooten between Bailey and a state police commander. On the tape, Bailey told Lieutenant Rodney Dial that the governor and her husband, Todd "are scratching their heads, 'Why on earth hasn't this -- why is this guy [Wooten] still representing the department?' He's a horrible recruiting tool, you know."

Bailey also accused Wooten of "lying on his application" and also of allegedly making a false workers' compensation claim, according to the tape.

The recording shows Dial responding to Bailey by asking, "Frank, where did you get that information from?" Such information about state employees "a lot of times is extremely confidential."

To which Bailey replied: "Well, I'm a little bit reluctant to say," the tape shows.

FIRED WASILLA POLICE CHIEF SUED PALIN IN '97


This isn't the first time that Palin has been surrounded by controversy over her dismissal of a police chief. ABC News reported on its Web site Thursday that the Republican vice-presidential nominee is also facing questions over why she fired the longtime police chief of her hometown of Wasilla shortly after she took office as mayor in 1997.

Former Wasilla Police Chief Irl Stambaugh filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit in federal court against Palin in 1997, accusing the then-mayor of firing him because he "stepped on the toes" of Palin's campaign contributors, including bar owners and the National Rifle Association -- of which Palin is a lifetime member, according to Stambaugh's attorney, William Jermain.

Jermain said Stambaugh tried to move up the closing time of Wasilla's bars three hours from the 5 a.m. closing time allowed under state law to 2 a.m. following a spate of drunk-driving accidents and arrests. "His crackdown on that practice by the bars was not appreciated by [then-Mayor Palin] and that was one reason she terminated Irl," ABC News quoted Jermain as saying.

In his lawsuit, Stambaugh also alleged that his stand on restricting concealed weapons upset the NRA. A federal judge later ruled the mayor, under town law, had the right to fire the chief for any reason she wanted, the network reported.

NEWSPAPER ACCUSES PALIN OF 'STONEWALLING' MONEGAN PROBE

In a blistering editorial published Friday, the Anchorage Daily News accused Palin of "stonewalling" the Legislature's attempt to get the bottom of allegations.

"This is not an open and transparent attempt to establish Governor Palin's accountability," the editorial said. "It is an attempt to drag out the investigation until after voters decide the fate of her vice-presidential bid."

As a result, the newspaper said, "the Troopergate allegations hang over Palin's future and cloud her candidacy for vice president."

The newspaper called on Palin to honor her pledge to cooperate with the Legislature's investigation -- and for the Legislature to grant its investigators subpoena power to compel Bailey and other witnesses to testify if the governor doesn't keep her promise.

# # #

Volume III, Number 53
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.








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