By James V. Grimaldi and Karl Vick
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 4, 2008
EAGLE RIVER, Alaska, Sept. 3 -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the running mate for GOP presidential candidate John McCain, wrote e-mails that harshly criticized Alaska state troopers for failing to fire her former brother-in-law and ridiculed an internal affairs investigation into his conduct.
The e-mails were shown to The Washington Post by a former public safety commissioner, Walter Monegan, who was fired by Palin in July. Monegan has given copies of the e-mails to state ethics investigators to support his contention that he was dismissed for failing to fire Trooper Mike Wooten, who at the time was feuding with Palin's family.
"This trooper is still out on the street, in fact he's been promoted," said a Feb. 7, 2007, e-mail sent from Palin's personal Yahoo account and written to give Monegan permission to speak on a violent-crime bill before the state legislature.
"It was a joke, the whole year long 'investigation' of him," the e-mail said. "This is the same trooper who's out there today telling people the new administration is going to destroy the trooper organization, and that he'd 'never work for that b****', Palin'.)"
Asked about the e-mails, Palin's campaign spokeswoman, Maria Comella, said that Palin was merely alerting officials to potential threats to her family and that there is no evidence that Palin ever ordered Wooten to be fired.
"Let's be clear, Governor Palin has done nothing wrong and is an open book in this process. Mr. Monegan even stated himself that no one ever told him to fire anyone, period," Comella said later in a statement. "The Governor was rightly expressing concern about Mr. Wooten."
Palin is under investigation by a bipartisan state legislative body that was authorized last month to look into whether Palin pressured Monegan to force Wooten from the state police force and whether his failure to do so led to his dismissal.
Palin had promised to cooperate with the legislative inquiry, but this week moved to change the jurisdiction of the case to the state personnel board, which Palin appoints. Her attorney, Thomas V. Van Flein, who was hired last month, challenged the jurisdiction of Stephen Branchflower, the retired prosecutor hired to investigate and report back to the legislature by the last week of October.
When Palin entered the governor's office in late 2006, Wooten already had been reprimanded, reassigned and suspended for five days for incidents reported by Palin's family. They had filed complaints in April 2005 after her younger sister's marriage fell apart and the couple battled in a bitter child-custody dispute.
Palin has said previously that she discussed Wooten with Monegan only in the context of security concerns for the family. Monegan has said that Palin never directly told him to fire Wooten but that the message was clearly conveyed through repeated messages from Palin, her husband and three members of her Cabinet.
"To allege that I, or any member of my family . . . directed disciplinary action be taken against any employee of the Department of Public Safety, is, quite simply, outrageous," Palin said in a statement in mid-July after Monegan's dismissal.
In August, Palin acknowledged that "pressure could have been perceived to exist, although I have only now become aware of it."
During an interview here Wednesday, Monegan said that as Alaska's top law enforcement official, he took his duties seriously. "I would willingly die for the governor, but I would never lie for her," he said.
He showed The Post two e-mails he received from Palin, but he declined to give copies. The first e-mail came on Feb. 7, 2007, after the governor's husband, Todd, met with Monegan to press the case for disciplinary action against Wooten. Palin's family had accused the trooper of shooting a cow moose without a permit, Tasering his stepson, and drinking while driving a trooper vehicle. After her husband met with Monegan, Palin followed up with a phone call to Monegan.
In that first e-mail, sent a few weeks after the meeting, Palin encouraged Monegan to testify for a bill that would require 99-year sentences for police officers found guilty of murder. "For police officers to violate the public trust is a grave, grave violation -- in my opinion. We have too many examples lately of cops and troopers who violate the public trust. DPS has come across as merely turning a blind eye or protecting that officer, seemingly 'for the good of the brotherhood'."
She cited Wooten's case as an example of violating the public trust. She recounted his transgressions, beginning with the killing of the cow moose using a permit obtained by his wife. Molly McCann, who uses her name from a previous marriage, was with Wooten at the time.
"He's still bragging about it in my hometown and after another cop confessed to witnessing the kill, the trooper was 'investigated' for over a year and merely given a slap on the wrist," the e-mail said. "Though he's out there arresting people today for the same crime!"
"He threatened to kill his estranged wife's parent, refused to be transferred to rural Alaska and continued to disparage Natives in words and tone, he continues to harass and intimidate his ex. -- even after being slapped with a restraining order that was lifted when his supervisors intervened," the e-mail said. "He threatens to always be able to come out on top because he's 'got the badge', etc. etc. etc.)"
Palin wrote that the Wooten matter had contributed to "the erosion of faith Alaskans should have in their law enforcement officials." She concluded by saying the e-mail was "just my opinion."
The second e-mail Monegan produced came from Palin's Yahoo address on July 17, 2007, after the local newspaper publicized a legislative proposal that would keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
Her first thought about the bill, the e-mail said, "went to my ex-brother-in-law, the trooper, who threatened to kill my dad yet was not even reprimanded by his bosses and still to this day carries a gun, of course."
"We can't have double standards. Remember when the death threat was reported, and follow-on threats from Mike that he was going to 'bring Sarah and her family down' -- instead of any reprimand WE were told by trooper union personnel that we'd be sued if we talked about those threats. Amazing. . . .
"So consistency is needed here," the e-mail said. "No one's above the law. If the law needs to be changed to not allow access to guns for people threatening to kill someone, it must apply to everyone."
Research editor Alice Crites in Washington contributed to this report.