Huffpost Politics

Palin Refuses To Meet With 'Troopergate' Investigator

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Gov. Sarah Palin is unlikely to speak with an independent counsel hired by Alaska lawmakers to review the firing of her public safety commissioner, a spokesman for Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Monday.

Spokesman Ed O'Callaghan said he has not spoken with Palin, but she was "unlikely to cooperate" with the inquiry "as long as it remains tainted."

Democrats charged that the McCain campaign was trying to stall the investigation.

"The partisan presidential campaign of McCain/Palin has interfered and is picking partisan targets to smear in order to make this investigation look like something it isn't," said Patti Higgins, chairwoman of the Alaska Democratic Party. "Rather than cooperating with the investigation, the Republican presidential campaign is doing everything it can to stall and smear."

O'Callaghan also said he did not know whether Palin's husband, Todd, would challenge a subpoena issued Friday to compel his cooperation. Thomas Van Flein, the Palins' lawyer, who has accepted service of the subpoena, did not return messages seeking comment. The governor herself has not been subpoenaed, but the Legislature's investigator, Steve Branchflower, has said he hopes to speak with her.

Palin and her husband campaigned Monday in Colorado and Ohio. Palin also planned appearances Tuesday in Ohio.

McCain's campaign insists the investigation into the firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan has been hijacked by Democrats.

Palin initially said she welcomed the inquiry. But after she became McCain's running mate on Aug. 29 her lawyer sought to have the three-member state Personnel Board take over the investigation, alleging that public statements by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democratic state Sen. Hollis French, indicated the probe was politically motivated.

French said Sept. 2 that the results of the investigation could constitute an "October surprise" for the McCain campaign. He later apologized for the remark, but Palin's lawyer has said the biased impression it created can't be undone.

The McCain campaign says it can prove Monegan was fired in July because of insubordination on budget issues, and not because he refused to fire a state trooper who went through a nasty divorce from Palin's sister.

To that end, the campaign released a series of e-mails detailing the frustration several Palin administration officials experienced in dealing with Monegan. The "last straw," the campaign said, was a trip Monegan planned to Washington in July to seek federal money for investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cases.

In a July 7 e-mail, John Katz, the governor's special counsel, noted two problems with the trip: the governor hadn't agreed the money should be sought, and the request "is out of sequence with our other appropriations requests and could put a strain on the evolving relationship between the Governor and Sen. Stevens."

Monegan was fired four days later.

In the weeks since, it has emerged that the Palins and her staff repeatedly had contacted Monegan expressing their dismay at the continued employment of Trooper Mike Wooten, who divorced Palin's sister in 2005. The following year, Wooten was suspended for five days based on complaints filed by the Palins, including that he drank in his patrol car, used a Taser on his 10-year-old stepson and illegally shot a moose.

A bipartisan panel of the Legislature voted unanimously to authorize an investigation into the circumstances of Monegan's firing.

In an effort to move the investigation into the Personnel Board's court, Van Flein filed a complaint there. But on Monday, he asked the board to dismiss the matter, citing the e-mails about budget issues as proving the real reason for Monegan's dismissal.

"The Governor decided to replace Mr. Monegan based on his refusal to execute her administration's policy on fiscal and budget matters, a refusal that between late 2007 and the middle of 2008 blossomed into outright insubordination."

Monegan's attorney said he had no immediate comment.

Also made clear in the e-mails is that some Palin staffers believed Monegan worked outside normal channels in making budget requests, in one case writing a letter to the governor in support of a funding for a project she had already vetoed.