Huffpost Politics

AP: Palin Staff Secrecy Could Kill Troopergate

Posted: Updated:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin says she's an open book regarding an abuse-of-power investigation. Apparently her staff doesn't feel the same way.

While the Alaska governor has waived her privacy rights so details about her firing of a state commissioner can be made public, she has not called on others in her administration to do the same. Unless they do, the results of a state personnel board investigation may never be revealed.

The personnel board and the state Legislature are running separate investigations into whether Palin abused her power by firing Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, who says he resisted pressure to fire a state trooper involved in a messy divorce with the governor's sister.

The controversy, known in Alaska as Troopergate, could hurt John McCain's presidential bid. Legislative investigators are due to submit a report Friday that could reveal embarrassing details about Palin's leadership and provide campaign fodder in the final weeks before the election.

Palin refuses to cooperate with that inquiry, which she says has become too political, citing comments by the Democratic senator overseeing the case. She is only cooperating with the personnel board inquiry, which is much more secretive, is run by people she can fire and could take years to resolve.

Her husband, Todd Palin, however, has agreed to answer written questions from legislative investigators, McCain campaign officials said Monday. Todd Palin previously had refused to testify in the legislative inquiry.

Todd Palin and several high-level staffers had contacted Monegan about state trooper Mike Wooten, Gov. Palin's former brother-in-law. While Monegan says he was never told directly to fire Wooten, he says the repeated contacts made it clear they wanted Wooten gone.

With the stakes so high, both sides were planning a week of court fighting ahead of Friday's deadline.

To head off the report, five Republican state lawmakers asked the Alaska Supreme Court on Monday to shut down the legislative investigation. Oral arguments are scheduled for Wednesday.

A legal fight is also brewing over the secrecy of the personnel board investigation. Anchorage white collar attorney Margaret Simonian wants the board's independent counsel, Tim Petumenos, to conduct his probe in public and says she's planning a lawsuit to force him to do so.

"Gov. Palin has said repeatedly, through her 'Truth Squad,' that she has nothing to hide and wants the personnel board's investigation to be open," Simonian wrote in a letter to Petumenos. "That does not appear to be true of her politically appointed employees."

Asked whether the governor would call for her aides to open the investigation, her attorney, Thomas Van Flein, deferred to Petumenos.

"The governor waived her confidentiality and wanted this matter decided openly," Van Flein said. "Mr. Petumenos is in charge of his investigation and until and unless he says otherwise, we will respect his decision."

Petumenos did not respond to a message seeking comment Monday but told Simonian in a letter that he said he was required by law to keep the matter confidential because those under scrutiny have not waived their privacy rights.


Associated Press writer Adam Goldman contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS spelling of counsel, sted council, in graf 10.)