The deposition of one of Gov. Sarah Palin's staff members was canceled yesterday by the staffer's attorney, in what is yet another setback to the state legislature's investigation into claims that Palin fired the public safety commissioner after he refused to dismiss a trooper, Palin's former brother in-law.
Palin has denied any wrongdoing surrounding the dismissal of Walt Monegan, but has acknowledged that phone calls were made by her staff members to Public Safety officials regarding the trooper, Mike Wooten.
One of those calls was made by Palin's director of boards and commissions, Frank Bailey. Bailey was scheduled to be deposed as part of the legislature's investigation, but his attorney canceled the deposition yesterday and challenged the legislature's jurisdiction, according to the state senator running the probe.
"This attempt is undermining the authority and integrity of the legislature by challenging its jurisdictional authority in this matter," said Sen. Hollis French, a Democrat.
Bailey's attorney, Greg Grebe, said he canceled the deposition, which was to take place today, last night after speaking with Palin's private attorney Thomas Van Flein. Grebe said that Van Flein informed him that there is a jurisdictional dispute that is unsettled.
But Palin's attorneys haven't filed any papers questioning the legislature's jurisdiction over the investigation, though Palin herself has called on the state personnel board to handle the matter.
Grebe insists his client is ready to be deposed, and that he will say he wasn't asked by the Governor to make any calls regarding Monegan, but he wants the jurisdictional matter to be settled first.
"I don't want my client to be used as a political football in the meantime," said Grebe.
In the official state recordings of the phone calls between Bailey and an Alaskan state trooper official, Bailey asks why Monegan has been reluctant to fire Wooten.
"The Palins can't figure out why nothing's going on," says Bailey. "I mean he's declared bankruptcy, his finances are a complete disaster, he's bought a new truck. All kinds of crazy stuff. He doesn't represent the department well. The community knows it, but no action is being taken."
Wooten reportedly had been reprimanded for violating nearly a dozen laws and departmental policies since December 2001. But the legislature's investigation does not center on Wooten nor on his boss Monegan. Rather, it is focused on whether or not Palin abused her office, and the senator in charge has said that since Palin was tapped to be McCain's running mate, the campaign has waged stall tactics to prevent the legislature from finishing it's investigation.
Palin has hired private attorneys to represent her in the matter.
Palin has said she dismissed Monegan over an honest disagreement over budget priorities, and she this week called for the Alaskan Personnel Board to conduct a formal investigation "to put these matters to rest."
Sen. French says he would like to take testimony from Palin this month.