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Posted at 08:47 PM ET, 06/09/2011

Background: ‘Troopergate’

In advance of the release of thousands of e-mails from Sarah Palin’s time as governor, we take a look at some of the issues that marked her tenure.

Days after being picked by Sen. John McCain as his vice presidential running mate in August 2008, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin faced a drumbeat of ethics questions about her firing of her state police chief earlier that summer. The matter was dubbed “Troopergate” by her foes and critics in Alaskan politics.

Investigators were looking into allegations that Palin had pressured the state’s public safety commissioner to dismiss her estranged brother-in-law and that she later fired the commissioner when he refused to do so. Palin’s sister had been involved in a bitter divorce and custody battle with her brother-in-law, state trooper Michael Wooten, in 2005 and 2006.

One month after she became governor in late 2006, Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd, contacted state Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan to argue that the brother-in-law “shouldn’t be a trooper.” After Monegan responded that Palin’s complaints about Wooten had already been investigated and handled, Monegan said the governor called him a few days later on his cell phone to express her dissatisfaction with the situation.

Palin and her supporters said at the time that the governor never asked Monegan to fire Wooten, and that her only communication with him was to properly raise concerns about threats on her family’s life.

Palin said she raised her concerns about her brother-in-law with Monegan just once, when telling him that Wooten had threatened in an argument to kill Palin’s father.

Monegan shared with The Washington Post copies of e-mails from Palin on the subject, which he described as “an obsession” of hers. A state investigation, launched by a bipartisan panel of the state legislature and conducted by an independent prosecutor, found a steady stream of e-mails and calls in which Palin, her aides and her husband expressed concern to Monegan about Wooten remaining in his job.

“This trooper is still out on the street, in fact he’s been promoted,” Palin wrote in a February 2007 e-mail to Monegan from her personal Yahoo account. “It was a joke, this whole year long ‘investigation’ of him.”

In one tape-recorded call, a Palin aide told a police lieutenant: “Todd and Sarah are scratching their heads, ‘Why on earth hasn’t this, why is this guy still representing the department.’ ”

The state investigation concluded Palin had abused her public office as she and her husband pursued a personal vendetta against Wooten. The October 2008 report found she fired Monegan partly because of his refusal to dismiss Wooten, but that she also improperly used state employees, including the attorney general, and the power of her office to try to settle a family score.

“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,” the report said.

In the 2005 divorce trial of Sarah Palin’s sister, Molly McCann, and Wooten, a state judge expressed bewilderment that the family seemed consumed with taking away Wooten’s source of income. Palin had testified that Wooten was a “ticking time bomb” and should lose his badge.

“It appears for the world that Ms. McCann and her family have decided to take off for the guy’s livelihood – that the bitterness of whatever who did what to whom has overridden good judgment,” the judge said in an audio recording of the trial.

By  |  08:47 PM ET, 06/09/2011

 
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