Investigation into Governor Sarah Palin's abuse of powers

By Corey Allen-Young, CBS 11 News Reporter
Article Last Updated:
Lawmakers will hire someone within a week to investigate whether Governor Sarah Palin abused her power in firing Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. The legislative council approved 100,000 dollars for the investigation that will find out whether Palin was angry at Monegan for not firing an Alaska State Trooper who went through a messy divorce with Palin's sister.

On Monday afternoon, the Joint Legislative Council, filled with Republicans and Democrats, voted 12 to 0 to formally call for an investigation against Governor Palin in a manner—that they are stressing—will be unbiased and done in a timely fashion.

Legislators approved hiring a special investigator to look into the controversial firing of former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Monegan was fired two weeks ago without explanation and has said he was pressured by the governor and her staff to fire a trooper who was once married to Palin's sister.

Accusations have risen that Monegan was fired for his refusal to fire trooper Michael Wooten. The council's intent is to investigate the circumstances and events surrounding the termination of Monegan and potential abuses of power and improper action by the Governor and her administration.

"It is the intent of the legislative council that the investigation be professional, unbiased, independent, objective, and conducted at arms length from the political process," said, Senator Kim Elton, a Democrat from Juneau.

The council's intent is to investigate the circumstances and events surrounding the termination of Monegan and potential abuses of power and improper action by the governor and her administration.

"I think what it really gets down to is after the comma, add potential abuses of power and improper actions is really what we are looking at or at least proposing to look at?" said Representative John Harris, a Republican from Valdez.

Governor Palin has denied the accusations, saying she replaced Monegan to go in a new direction. And although she doesn't think an investigation is needed, she welcomes the questions.

The council went through a detailed meeting to make sure the process is done in a timely manner with accurate results.

"We will get from this is," said Senator Hollis French, a Democrat from Anchorage, "no evidence of wrong doing, some evidence of wrong doing, clear evidence of wrong doing, that will come back to us."

"At that point the body has to make the decision: 'Is this evidence strong enough to proceed on or not?'"

"I think it should be made very clear because there have been conversations about personnel matters that the issues really that we are dealing with here are not the termination of the public safety commissioner," said Harris.

Legislators hope that during this investigation that the politics are left out of the mix, which can be hard for government officials.

"What really remains is the most significant hurdle," said Representative Jay Ramras, a Republican from Fairbanks. "Are those professionals going to feel compelled to be subpoenaed before they will speak candidly about what they know?"

Senator French is the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and is in charge of hiring the investigator. He says he has a short list of candidates and that the investigation should be finished within a few months.