September 11, 2008 -- Advocates for women's issues in Alaska have come to the defense of the state's former public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, abruptly fired by Governor Sarah Palin in July.
Monegan spent Wednesday testifying before a legislative commission which is investigating allegations Palin abused her office in firing him. Monegan claims he was dismissed because he resisted pressure from the Governor and her office to fire the Governor's former brother-in-law.
Some women's advocates say Monegan was one of the few state officials to take seriously the "epidemic" problem of violence against women and children in Alaska.
"I don't believe Gov. Palin has made this a priority," said Geran Tarr, co-chair of the Alaska Women's Lobby. "We have not seen Gov. Palin do anything that would indicate this is a priority."
Due to a production error, Geran Tarr was misidentified on the Good Morning America version of this story as being with the Alaska Women's Center. That was not correct. Ms. Tarr is with the Alaska Women's Lobby.
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Others preferred to distance themselves from the issue -- including AWAIC, a women's shelter in Anchorage that was shown on Good Morning America Thursday.
"We regret that the name of our group was included in the story, that we hoped would focus on domestic abuse issues instead of the politics of this," said center director Judy Cordell, after the story aired. "We try to steer clear of politics and stay focused on the issue" of domestic violence, Cordell said.
She added that Tarr did not speak for her organization.
Palin herself had nothing but praise for Monegan and his work on the issue at a conference earlier this year, just three months before she fired him, supposedly because he was not a team player on budget issues.
A tape obtained exclusively by ABC News shows Palin at a conference Apr. 28, where she acknowledges and even applauds Monegan.
"An indication of our commitment is the participation here of my, our, department of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan's participation here and all of his hard work, and I want to publicly thank him," Palin said.
She went on to say that Monegan was not just talking about the issue, but was "finding the solutions and plugging them in."
"I want to publicly thank Walt for having his heart in the right place and his efforts too," Palin said in her opening remarks. The footage was shot for Blinding Justice, a documentary in-progress that sheds light on the sexual abuse epidemic in Alaska.
"Troopergate" has turned into the most serious cloud hanging over Palin as she campaigns as John McCain's vice presidential candidate. But Monegan's firing means much more than just politics for victims groups, who say the Governor, unlike Monegan, has failed to take decisive action to support programs that help women who are beaten and raped.
According to the FBI, Alaska is the first in the nation, per capita, for rapes, and second for murder of women by men.
Palin's former press secretary says the Governor is addressing the issue.
"In the very early days of her administration this is one of her top priorities mentioned: domestic violence awareness and prevention and to work with legislators and making sure there is legislation out there," said Meg Stapleton.
Monegan declined to comment after he finished testifying Wednesday, but he previously told ABC News that the real reason for his abrupt dismissal was that he refused to fire the Governor's ex-brother in law from the state police after a messy divorce from Palin's sister.
Palin calls Monegan's claims outrageous, but Monegan told ABC News he would provide the committee with proof to back up his claim.
"She'd had two conversations with Walt and had sent him some emails," said Sen. Hollis French, who is running the state Senate committee's investigation of Palin. "The idea that there had been no contact and no pressure – that doesn't stand up. Her credibility is at stake here, her credibility was damaged in a blanket of denial."The committee wants to issue a final report in the next few weeks.
The McCain campaign has launched an attack on its credibility, saying four of its members are Democrats supporting Barack Obama.
They failed to mention that the other 10 members of the committee are Republicans.
Additional reporting by Rhonda Schwartz, Joseph Rhee, and Len Tepper.This post has been updated.