Posted by MataHarley on 11 October, 2008 at 2:36 am. 29 comments already!

I cannot tell you how bored I am with Trooper’gate. And frankly, I’m glad at least one of the two investigations has had some nebulous and inconclusive conclusion.

I say “inconclusive conclusion” because, as Branchwater was quoted in the ADN today:

Branchflower writes that his investigation did not take into account late-arriving statements from several administration officials who, on the advice of Attorney General Talis Colberg, resisted subpoenas. They agreed to provide written statements this week, however, after a state judge upheld the subpoenas. Information from those statements was provided to the Legislative Council separately.

In fact, there were 10 witnesses not included in Branchwater’s investigation. Branchwater promises a separate report. Oh goodie.

I say nebulous since the only count from which they can extract a semblence of a scandalous headline is by Branchwater’s (legally erroneous) determination that Sarah Palin abused her power, in violation of the Executive Branch Ethics Act. How? By *not* telling her husband, Todd, to stop talking, or asking, about Trooper Wooten.

Huh? Okay… lemme ‘splain.

Personally, I’d rather just recant Theresa C’s comment from another thread, and quit there. Dang… the girl nailed it in 14 words!

Governor Palin abused her power because she didn’t put a leash on her spouse??

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. But of course, to get away with such a short quip, and not be accused of “drinking the kool-aid”, or some other sophomoric hep expression, one has to show how Branchwater managed to turn something so absurd into a headline that screams “Palin Abused Power” in the Anchorage Daily News.

BTW.. here’s the two biggies for reading. I’ll get the hotlinks out of the way now. Go to the source material, and ignore the reporters behind the curtain…

The Branchwater 263 page PDF Report
… or try here if that server is busy.
.

…and, Counsel for Palin’s Response

From the beginning. Remember, this was all about supposedly Palin firing Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan because he refused to fire Trooper Mike Wooten… Palin’s ex brother in law. (gawd, I’m bored already…) So keep in mind, this is where it all started. Or refresh your memory by REVIEWING ALL TROOPER’GATE POSTS HERE

UPDATE: To those of you who have rightfully commented below that Monegan was not fired, but had quit after refusing reassignment to the ABC division… yes, I know that. I am, however, carrying on with the oft repeated ADN headlines… i.e. Subpoenas expected in Monegan firing case. Since the Alaskans call this a “firing”, and call the affair “Troopergate”, I stick with their language for consistency. End UPDATE

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Count One: the “abuse of power” which has the Obama camp salivating

Note: These PDFs do not allow highlighting text for cut and paste.. thus the jpgs. Saves a boatload of typing

FROM PG 8

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Okay… Count 1 is about whether Palin abused her power under the Executive Branch Ethics Law by she, or her administrative staff, pressuring Monegan and/or other government officials to fire Wooten. This is not to be confused with Count 2… which addresses whether the actual “firing” (or actually, offered reassignment) of Monegan was yet another abuse of power…

Confused already? Hey… hang in there. This cost Alaskan taxpayers $100K, plus more that we don’t know about yet. Might as well give this fodder it’s due, yes?

And frankly, we only have to address Count 1. So let’s clear out the other counts here in advance….

On Count 2: Branchflower found that Monegan’s reassignment/termination was “a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.” As for Wooten INRE this charge, he stated that altho “Monegan’s refusal to fire Trooper Wooten was not the sole reason he was fired”, Branchwater said it was “likely” a contributing factor.

For more of those reasons why Palin had a problem with Monegan, read Randy Ruaro’s affidavit.

Woof… strong language by Branchflower there. There was other reasons, but Wooten was “likely” a contributing factor to Monegan’s reassignment?? Shall we ask for the chair? Lethal injection now? zzzzzzzz

Count 3: Hey… this was the one most the Obamabots were hanging onto… did Palin or anyone in her administration violate Wooten’s medical records? Certainly the most serious of charges, IMHO.

So sorry to disappoint. Nope. Nothing improper. Apparently an ex-employee, Johanna Grasso did a “she said” routine – alleging Murleen Wilkers (owner of the Harbor Adjustment Service Co) mentioned the Governor’s or her office had called and asked Wooten’s claim be denied.

Only problem is, Wilkes’ testimony revealed she had frequent contact with the usual representative in the Governor’s office that she does on all claims. And she was not directed to do anything differently, or unusual with Wooten’s claim.

FROM PG 72

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This lack of impropriety was confirmed by former Alaskan AG, Joe Cooper (who represented the State in the Wooten workman’s comp case), Cooper’s former supervisor, Chief Asst AG Gail Voigtlander, and Wooten’s own Anchorage attorney in his workman’s comp case, Chancy Croft.

…. so much for that charge.

The last Count 4 appears to have nothing to do with Palin herself, but with the AG’s office. Apparently, Branchwater’s a bit miffed about the delay in the AG’s office providing him with the emails and data he demanded… er, requested… for his witchhunt… er, investigation.

THE LONE BRANCHWATER GUILTY, COUNT 1
JUST WHAT WAS THAT ABUSE?

The evidence supports the conclusion that Governor Palin, at the least, engaged in “official action” by her inaction [emphasis added] if not her active participation or assistance to her husband in attempting to get Trooper Wooten fired [and there is evidence of her active participation].

Uh… which is it? “If not” her participation or “evidence of her active participation”??

She knowingly, as that term is defined in the above cited statutes, permitted Todd Palin to use the Governor’s office and the resources of the Governor’s office, including access to state employees, to continue to contact subordinate state employees in an effort to find some way to get Trooper Wooten fired. Her conduct violated AS 39.52.110(a) of the Ethics Act. That statute provides that:

“the legislature reaffirms that each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust”.

Governor Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda, to wit: to get Trooper Michael Wooten fired. She had the authority and power to require Mr. Palin to cease contacting subordinates, but she failed to act.

Or, as Theresa C said, she didn’t keep Todd on a leash… :0)

The problem with Branchflower’s interpretation of the Ethics Law is his overly broad vision of “benefit” and “personal interest” in the statute…. not to mention his lack of regard for precedents that clarify vague legalese. What he constitutes as “abuse” fails to meet the standards required by the Ethics Act. However Branchflower references no precedents. He merely creates his own interpretation of what meets the level of scrutiny.

As Thomas Van Flein states in his five page response (linked above), the Ethics Law “addresses financial conflicts of interest”, as precedents have defined.

FROM RESPONSE PG 2

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Other precedents have also clarified “only substantial and material conflicts” violate the ethics law, and distinguishes between minor and inconsequential conflicts of interest that do not. Certainly, not asking Todd Palin to stop asking officials about Wooten classifies as the latter. And since any perceived interest Sarah Palin had in Wooten played little or no (i.e. “likely contributed) role in Monegan’s reassignment/termination, Palin is exonerated.

FROM RESPONSE PG 3

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Since Branchwater goes on for pages with multiple events about conversations Todd Palin had with officials in his report, it’s even more interesting that Branchwater finds the First Dude is not in violation of anything… and therefore he makes no finding as to Todd Palin’s conduct. This is because Todd Palin is not an employee of the executive branch.

Uh… but isn’t he supposedly the culprit doing the dastardly deeds, while Sarah is guilty of just not stopping him??

Branchwater doesn’t explain how the six events of the 18 that involved Todd Palin (after she took office) are, as he said, use [of] the Governor’s office and the resources of the Governor’s office, including access to state employees. Frankly, I’m not even sure how six conversations over two and a half years even gets classified as serious pressure. But breaking it down, five of those were phone conversations. One was a conversation with Glass in a government building. However Palin did not bring the subject of Wooten up… Glass did.

There was only one conversation with Walt Monegan in the Governor’s office in all these events. However, if you will remember, Todd Palin was ordered to speak with Monegan by Special Agent Bob Cockrell INRE threats to the first family. Where did that meeting take place? In, perhaps, the governor’s office? And does this single meeting constitute abuse of government resources?

And one more thing that had “access to state employees” charge … is Todd Palin not allowed to speak to elected and administrative officials? Are these officials not available to the public at large?

So why did Todd Palin keep pursuing Wooten?

ALASKAN LAW PROHIBITS FEEDBACK ON STATUS AND
OUTCOME OF COMPLAINTS AGAINST PEACE OFFICERS!

You’ll remember that the Palins filed a complaint against Trooper Wooten. The Administrative Investigation of that complaint ended March 1, 2006… over nine months prior to Palin taking the Governor’s office. Wooten appealed his meted out discipline with the help of the PSEA, his union. They settled the appeal on Sept 5th, 2006… reducing his 10 days suspension to 5 days. This is still four months before Palin takes office.

The problem here is the AST wouldn’t give the Palin’s any information as to whether the investigation had occurred, ended or if there was any discipline rendered. Alaskan State law prohibits feedback about status and outcome of any complaint against peace officers.

According to Frank Bailey’s affidavit on Aug 27th, 2008 with Thomas Van Flein, the Palins did not find out about Wooten’s complaint investigation, and the reduced suspension, until the summer of 2008… just shy of two years after the complaint was finalized in appeal, and three years after it was originally filed. They learned the results after Wooten’s personnel file was made public in the media.

Throughout that time, all they knew was that Trooper Wooten was still running around as an Alaskan State Trooper. His uninterrupted status lent the impression that nothing had been done. A five day sojourn (the suspension) could have been interpreted as a week’s vacation, for all they knew.

This is also confirmed via a 21 page legal analysis of the Branchwater report, available on the McCain campaign site. I am unaware of the author of this brief, and possibly a member of McCain’s legal team. It is, however, substantive to note that the Palins were unaware of any action on their complaint years ago.

Todd Palin was not aware of the Grimes Report until July 2008, after Monegan left the government. The DPS never informed the Palins that Wooten had been disciplined. All the Palins knew is that Trooper Wooten would repeatedly tell Ms. McCann that no one would ever punish him because he was a trooper, and that Trooper Wooten continued to be assigned to patrol the Palins’ neighborhood, even after he had threatened to kill Sarah Palin’s father.

CONCLUSIONS AND PENALTIES?

After the expenditure of $100k of Alaskan taxpayers cash, Branchwater made two recommendations. One, to amend the request for medical and rehabilitation records by any government agency require a relationship be established between the request for the records, and the purpose for obtaining the records.

And second? That those who file complaints against peace officers to receive status and outcome of those complaints. As Branchwater himself said in his report, the Palins’ frustration was genuine, and their skepticism that an investigation or discipline had ever occured was warranted.

Gives a new perspective on all that talking Todd Palin was doing, eh?

FROM PG 80

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So what about that impeachment Sen. Hollis French so readily bandied about in the press? Or at least one of the $5000 maximum fines for such serious crimes and misdemeanors as not reining in a hubby, attempting to find out what’s going on with the Trooper who threatened his family members?

Again, from today’s ADN:

The chairman of the Legislative Council, Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, said he agreed with Branchflower’s findings but wasn’t ready to suggest there should be any consequences for the governor.

“We don’t charge people, we don’t try people as legislators,” Elton said. Any further action or disciplinary measures, he said, would be up to Palin’s executive branch, the attorney general or the state Personnel Board.

So here we are – $100,000 later – back to the Personnel Board investigation. Right where the dang thing belonged to begin with….

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