Troopergate Report: Palin Abused Power

Gov. Sarah Palin abused her power when she fired her public safety commissioner this July, a state investigation has concluded.

The Alaska legislature voted Friday to release the 263-page report on the "Troopergate" scandal, a state kerfuffle which has come to haunt Palin's vice presidential bid. The scandal centered around her firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Monegan and others believed Palin fired him because he refused to take action against Mike Wooten, a state trooper under him who had been involved in a messy divorce with Palin's sister, Molly.

The investigator, Stephen Branchflower, found that Monegan's refusal to fire Wooten "was not the sole reason" but was "likely a contributing factor" to his firing.

Branchflower also said Palin's attorney general failed to provide him with e-mails of Palin's that he had requested as part of the probe.

The report found that Palin let the family grudge influence her decision-making, even if it was not the sole reason Monegan was dismissed.

Palin said Saturday that she did "nothing unlawful or unethical" in removing Monegan from his position. As Palin left the Pittsburgh Westin Hotel this morning to board her campaign bus, a pool reporter yelled out, "Governor, did you abuse your power?" Palin paused as she boarded the bus and responded, "No, and if you read the report you'll see that there was nothing unlawful or unethical about replacing a cabinet member. You gotta read the report, sir."

In an interview with reporters from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last night following an evening fundraiser, Palin defended her handling of the case.

"It is important for a governor to take on the responsibility of making sure that everybody in her cabinet is in the right place at the right time to best serve the public," Palin said. "I dismissed a cabinet member because he wasn't the right person at the right time in his position -- dismissed him having nothing to do with telling him to hire or fire anybody else."

Reached at home Friday night, Monegan told he felt relieved by the report's findings. "Vindicated is too harsh of a word," he said from his kitchen, where he said he and his wife were making stew. "But I honestly feel a little conflicted, as well. ... We were trying to protect her from this very moment," he said.

"We warned her, we warned her, we warned her," said Monegan of efforts to insulate Palin from personnel questions concerning Wooten. "I think we failed."

Meg Stapleton, the spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign, said in a statement Friday night: "The report [...] illustrates what we've known all along: this was a partisan-led inquiry run by Obama supporters and the Palins were completely justified in their concern regarding Trooper Wooten, given his violent and rogue behavior. Lacking evidence to support the original Monegan allegation, the Legislative Council seriously overreached, making a tortured argument to find fault without basis in law or fact."

Bill McAllister, Palin's Alaska communications director, released a statement saying the report "vindicated the governor by finding that she acted within her constitutional authority to remove 'at-will' employees." But he questioned the report's abuse of power finding.

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