This article incorrectly said that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had been the chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in May 2005 when she was interviewed by state investigators about her brother-in-law. Palin resigned from the commission in January 2004.
INFLUENCE IN QUESTION
Long-Standing Feud in Alaska Embroils Palin
Sunday, August 31, 2008
For the past several years, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, has been embroiled in a bitter family feud that has drawn in the state police, the attorney general, the governor's office and the state legislature.
A bipartisan state legislative panel has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate whether Palin improperly brought the family fight into the governor's office. The investigation is focusing on whether she and her aides pressured and ultimately fired the public safety commissioner, Walter Monegan, for not removing Palin's ex-brother-in-law from the state police force.
Interviews with principals involved in the dispute and a review of court documents and police internal affairs reports reveal that Palin has been deeply involved in alerting state officials to her family's personal turmoil.
Palin has said she did not pressure Monegan or fire him for not taking action against her former brother-in-law. A spokesman for Sen. John McCain's campaign, who asked not to be identified because the matter is under investigation, said Palin's actions were merely intended to alert Monegan about potential threats to her family from her sister's ex-husband, Mike Wooten.
The trouble between Wooten and the governor's sister broke into the open after an alleged incident in February 2005. Palin told an internal affairs investigator that she overheard on a speakerphone Wooten arguing with her sister and threatening to kill their father. Fearful for her family members' lives, Palin said she drove to her sister's house and watched the argument through a window.
"Wooten's words were, 'I will kill him. He'll eat a [expletive] lead bullet, I'll shoot him,' if our father got the attorney to help Molly," Palin said in an e-mail she wrote in August 2005 to the chief of the state police. "I heard this death threat, my 16-year-old son heard it (Track Palin), Molly heard it, as did their small children. Wooten spoke with his Trooper gun on his hip in an extremely intimidating fashion, leaving no doubt he is serious about taking someone's life who disagrees with him."
According to the e-mail, the alleged argument occurred after Palin's sister, who uses her previous married name of Molly McCann, questioned Wooten about her husband attending a trooper-sponsored event in January with another woman. There is no record of police charging Wooten for the alleged threat. Through his attorney, Wooten declined to comment for this article.
On the day that the governor's younger sister filed for divorce -- April 11, 2005 -- Palin's father, Chuck Heath, a retired teacher then in his late 60s, called state police to file a complaint about Wooten. He handed the phone to his daughter Molly, who told state police that her husband had threatened her father's life and had drunk beer while driving his police vehicle home. Later, she told police that Wooten had shot a "cow moose" without a license and Tasered his 10-year-old stepson.
A month later, Sarah Palin, then chairing the state oil and gas commission, was interviewed by a state police investigator about the argument. She told investigators that when she arrived at the house she could see Wooten "waving his arms." She said she thought, "He is gonna blow it." She said she left for a meeting without calling police.
On Aug. 10, 2005, Palin sent an angry, three-page e-mail to Col. Julia Grimes, head of the state police. "My concern is that the public's faith in the Troopers will continue to diminish as more residents express concerns regarding the apparent lack of action towards a Trooper whom is described by many as 'a ticking time bomb' and a 'loose cannon.' "
Palin noted, "Wooten is my brother-in-law, but this information is forwarded to you objectively," and asked Grimes to treat the information objectively.
Keeping Wooten on the police force, Palin wrote, "would lead a rational person to believe there is a problem inside the organization."