Scandal: Palin ‘Troopergate’

Updated Oct. 16

Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska and John McCain's vice presidential running mate, has been embroiled in a controversy -- dubbed ‘Troopergate' -- over the ouster of Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan.

Sarah Palin (Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)Gov. Palin, her family and aides allegedly pressured Monegan to fire state trooper Mike Wooten, who went through a rancorous divorce and child-custody battle with Palin's younger sister in 2005. Monegan refused and was abruptly fired on July 11.

Six days later, Andrew Halco, a former state representative who lost to Palin in the gubernatorial election, was the first to allege that Monegan was fired in retaliation for refusing to fire Wooten. That same day, Palin called those allegations "outrageous."

The next day, Monegan told the press that he was indeed pressured by the Palin administration to fire Wooten, but he did not go so far as to say that it was the reason why he was fired. Monegan has since said that both Palin and her husband personally pushed the Wooten issue with him.

Palin initially denied that she or anyone on her staff pressured Monegan about Wooten, but she was forced to change her story after evidence emerged from an investigation by the attorney general that she requested in early August.

On August 13, she held a press conference announcing that the investigation had uncovered a tape (MP3) of one of her aides pressuring a state trooper on Wooten. On the tape, a Palin aide asked the trooper, "Todd and Sarah are scratching their heads, 'Why on earth hasn't this, why is this guy still representing the department?'" Palin also admitted that members of her staff had contacted public safety officials two dozen times about the issue, but she maintains that many of these inquiries were entirely appropriate and denied all involvement. She said Monegan was fired because he wasn't doing enough to fill state trooper vacancies and control alcohol abuse. She later said that Monegan was insubordinate.

A bipartisan panel in Alaska's legislature voted to hire an independent investigator, Steve Branchflower, to probe the matter on July 28. He faced an onslaught of opposition from the McCain and Palin camps but finally released his report (PDF) on October 10. It concluded that Palin was within her rights to fire Monegan but had indeed abused her power by pressuring him on Wooten.

The Alaska Personnel Board is also investigating Troopergate, and has even widened its scope to include other ethics complaints against Palin. Palin had asked the Personnel Board to investigate the matter in September and refused to cooperate with Branchflower's probe, which her lawyers said had become politicized.

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