Huffpost Politics

Palin testifies to investigator in ethics dispute

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ST. LOUIS — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin testified for two hours Friday in an abuse-of-power investigation that has been a distraction to her Republican vice presidential campaign. Palin's leadership was questioned this month in a stinging but largely toothless legislative report that found she violated state ethics laws by letting a family dispute influence her decision-making.

Palin is hoping the Alaska Personnel Board, which is running a parallel investigation, will clear her of wrongdoing. It's unclear, however, whether any conclusion will be reached before Election Day.

"I am so pleased to finally have gotten the chance to tell what really happened and get the truth out," Palin said in a statement released by her attorney. "It was the right thing to do to bring this before the Personnel Board and have a true arms length unbiased and apolitical investigator look into this."

The board is investigating the firing of her public safety commissioner, Walter Monegan. Monegan claims he was dismissed because he refused to fire Palin's former brother-in-law, a state trooper involved in a messy divorce from Palin's sister. The controversy, known as "Troopergate," took on national significance after John McCain selected Palin as his running mate.

The legislative inquiry found that Monegan's firing was proper but the pressure to fire the trooper, Mike Wooten, was not. Griffin says Palin stands by her decision to fire Monegan and her concerns about Wooten.

Palin and her husband, Todd, say Wooten was unstable and had made threats against their family. Wooten had also used an electric stun gun on his stepson.

"I make no apologies for wanting to protect my family and wanting to publicize the injustice of a violent trooper keeping his badge," Todd Palin said in an affidavit submitted to legislative investigators.

Sarah Palin was not subpoenaed in that investigation. Friday's testimony before independent investigator Timothy Petumenos was the first time she spoke at length or under oath about the controversy. Palin began testifying around 4 p.m., McCain campaign spokesman Taylor Griffin said. Palin's husband, Todd, was scheduled to testify before she did.

Palin's attorney, Thomas Van Flein, characterized Palin's testimony as "thorough, candid and detailed." Van Flein said Petumenos assured him he was working quickly but made no promise the case would be closed before Election Day.

"I just hope the truth comes out," Van Flein said. "If it's after the election, it's after the election."

Although the legislative report issued a stinging rebuke of Palin's conduct, it carried no penalty. It's up to the personnel board to decide whether Palin violated the law. She filed a complaint against herself to launch the investigation after accusing the legislative inquiry of becoming partisan. Unlike the Legislature, the personnel board is run by officials that Palin can fire but only for cause.

"She felt this was an opportunity to get an unbiased, independent review of the facts," McCain campaign spokesman Taylor Griffin said.

Whether Palin's testimony becomes public remains uncertain. Personnel investigations are normally secret and, though Palin has waived her privacy rights, others in her administration have not and Petumenos has sought to keep the matter from playing out in the media.

Van Flein said Palin would like to release a transcript of her deposition. But producing one typically takes days and it's unknown whether Petumenos will allow it.

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Apuzzo reported from Washington.