Alaska bipartisan panel appoints investigator to look into Governor Palin firing case

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Denver, Aug.30 : Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is said to have fired a top law enforcement official in her administration because he had failed to dismiss a state trooper who was involved in a divorce with her sister.

This month, a bipartisan panel of state legislators appointed an independent investigator to look into the case, and if true, it could besmirch her credentials as a champion of ethics, says the New York Times.

State Senator Hollis S. French II, a Democrat and former prosecutor who is directing the inquiry and picked the independent investigator, said that it "certainly has the possibility of giving her an ethical black eye."

The questions began in mid-July, shortly after Governor Palin fired Walt Monegan, the public safety commissioner and a former Anchorage police chief. Palin said then that she had wanted to take the department in a different direction.

A week later, however, Andrew Halco, a former state legislator who ran against Palin for governor in 2006, published a lengthy article on his blog highlighting a bitter back-and-forth between members of Palin's extended family and the trooper, Mike Wooten.

Palin's sister, Molly McCann, was divorced from Wooten in 2005 and was locked in a bitter custody dispute.

An internal police investigation conducted in 2005, prompted by complaints from Ms. McCann and her family, eventually resulted in Wooten's suspension for illegally shooting a moose and using a Taser on his stepson, although most of the complaints were dismissed.

A judge in the couple's custody case questioned the family's motives for filing the complaints.

"It appears for the world that Ms. McCann and her family have decided to take off for the guy's livelihood," the judge said, according to a recording of a hearing.

The McCain campaign issued a statement on Friday saying, "Governor Palin has been fully cooperative in this situation and has nothing to hide."

The inquiry by the Legislature centers on what Mr. Monegan later described as pressure from members of Palin's administration and her husband, Todd, to fire Wooten. The governor herself also raised the subject of Wooten with him, Monegan has said.

Monegan, who did not return telephone calls on Friday, told The Anchorage Daily News that Palin had showed him some of the findings of a private detective the family had hired to investigate Wooten and accused him of a variety of transgressions, including drunken driving and child abuse.

Mr. Palin told the newspaper that Mr. Wooten had made threats against his wife and her family.

As part of her efforts to demonstrate that she welcomed the Legislature's inquiry, Governor Palin asked the state's attorney general to look into the accusations as well.

ANI

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