Palin Could Be Deposed in Probe

A former state official claims he was pressured to fire her ex-brother-in-law.


Aug. 29, 2008 — -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain's surprise vice-presidential pick, is the subject of a legislative probe into claims that she abused her office by trying to get her former brother-in-law fired from his job as an Alaska state trooper.

Palin is likely to be deposed soon in the case, according to State Sen. Hollis French, who leads the state Senate's Legislative Counsel Committee.

French's committee unanimously authorized an investigation into the dismissal of the state's public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, who claims he balked at pressure to remove Trooper Mike Wooten, who had an acrimonious divorce from Palin's sister.

"I saw e-mails from [independent investigator Stephen] Branchflower two days ago to the Department of Law saying it's time to schedule a deposition of the governor, her chief of staff and the attorney general who had some contact with the case," French tells

While Palin was being introduced to the world at a rally in Dayton, Ohio, today, thousands of miles away in an Anchorage office, Branchflower was preparing to interview principals in the case, French said.

Branchflower did not return calls for comment.

Palin's press secretary Bill McAlister says that the governor denies that she pressured Monegan, attributing his dismissal to "other issues with the public safety commission as to how he was doing his job."

McAlister says that Palin only discussed Wooten once with Monegan, at a routine security briefing shortly after she won election in 2006 when she cited her former brother-in-law as someone she was concerned about as a security threat.

As for Wooten, McAlister maintains that her concern was justified, alleging, "He Tasered his 11-year-old stepson. He was observed drinking and getting into a squad car. And he illegally shot a moose, which doesn't sound like much -- but in Alaska, state troopers have wildlife authority."

Wooten was suspended over the allegations for five days in 2006, but is still on the job.

Two weeks ago, one of Palin's aides, former boards and commissions director Frank Bailey, was placed on administrative leave by the governor after admitting he made phone calls to Wooten's boss, Lt. Rodney Dial, in which he asked why the trooper still had his job. Bailey told reporters at the time that no one asked him to make the call, explaining, "My fear was (Wooten) could fly off the handle and do something that was irreversible."

A woman who answered the phone at Wooten's house declined to put him on the phone, saying, "He's putting his children first ... and has nothing to say about the campaign or Palin."

The legislative investigation centers on Palin's dismissal of Monegan, who says that he was contacted several times by the governor and her husband, Todd Palin, and that they pressured him to fire Wooten, who was locked in a contentious divorce and custody battle with Palin's sister, Molly McCann.

"Obviously, there was an issue," says Monegan, who claims that the governor talked to him twice and e-mailed him two or three times about the issue. "And did she want us to do more than discipline him? Yeah, anyone can tell you that.

"No one ever -- not her, not her staff -- has ever said, 'Fire Trooper Wooten,'" adds Monegan. "They all said, 'He's not the sort we'd like to have represent Alaska state troopers.' But the intention was clear."

Monegan says that he also met with Todd Palin in the governor's office in January 2007 and claims, "He showed me ... private investigator reports, letters, correspondence" that raised issues suggesting Wooten should be punished.

But Monegan says when he brought the information back to his office and compared it to the commission's internal file on Wooten, which contained complaints filed by Palin's sister, he says he didn't find anything new.

Monegan says Wooten had already been disciplined by his predecessor for the same complaints raised by Palin and her husband.

"They were already done deals and he had already been punished," says Monegan, who adds that the governor called him late at night on his cellphone a few days after his meeting with Todd Palin.

"There was no new evidence, and I called [Todd Palin] back and told him it was a closed case," Monegan says. "He wasn't happy to hear that. I got a subsequent phone call from the governor about it, and she wasn't happy, either."

In total, Monegan says he and his office received 24 calls over 17 months from the governor, her husband and her staff about Wooten.

Monegan suspects Todd Palin was tracking Wooten's activities because Monegan says the governor's husband once called to complain that the trooper, who was on light duty because of an injury, was snow-machining at his residence far from Palin's home.

Monegan declined to discuss details of Wooten's alleged misdeeds, citing the ongoing investigation and Monegan's upcoming Sept. 10 interview with Branchflower, the independent investigator hired by the state senate's Legislative Counsel Committee.

On July 11, Monegan says he was called to the governor's office where chief of staff Mike Nizich told him he was being removed from his position because Palin wanted to take the Department of Public Safety in a different direction.

Monegan is convinced that his refusal to discipline Wooten was a major factor in his dismissal. He says he understands Palin's passion about the issue.

"I've been a cop for a long time, and I know how emotional divorces can get," Monegan says. "If, in fact, it turns out to be the case [that the investigation determines that Palin abused her office by exerting pressure], she's just being human."

The alleged meetings with Monegan may have been just the latest steps in Palin's apparent campaign to alert Wooten's superiors to his alleged misbehavior.

In 2005, less than three months before she began her campaign for governor, Palin sent an e-mail from her personal account to the head of the Alaska state troopers about Wooten. The e-mail was obtained by ABC News and other outlets.

In the message, Palin relayed more than two dozen incidents in which she or others alleged Wooten had driven drunk, made threats, violated game hunting laws, hurt his son, abused his authority as a law enforcement officer, been unfaithful to his wife, and more.

Palin noted allegations that Wooten had threatened to "bring Sarah Palin down," as well as make Palin's father "eat a f******* lead bullet."

The allegations, taken together, "would lead a rational person to believe there is a problem inside the [state troopers'] organization," asserted Palin in the e-mail.

"I have objectively separated the divorce and Wooten's threats against me and my family with the fact that the troopers have a loose cannon on their hands," Palin wrote.

Justin Rood also contributed to this story

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