By James V. Grimaldi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin did not violate state ethics rules as governor when she fired her state police commissioner and allegedly tried to engineer the firing of her brother-in-law from the Alaska State Troopers, an investigator for Alaska's State Personnel Board found in a report released on the eve of the election.
The exoneration by the State Personnel Board contradicts the findings of an Alaska state legislative investigator, who ruled last month that Palin abused executive power when she and her husband engaged in a campaign to oust Mike Wooten, her former brother-in-law, from the state trooper payroll.
The investigations began when Walter Monegan, the state police commissioner, alleged in July that Palin fired him for not ousting her former brother-in-law. Palin denies the firing had to do with the trooper.
Timothy Petumenos, investigator for the personnel board, said there was "no probable cause to believe that Governor Palin violated the Alaska Executive Ethics Act" by firing Monegan or "in any other respect in connection with the employment of Alaska State Trooper Michael Wooten."
In an interview, Petumenos said his action ends the board's investigation. Petumenos, who called himself a "loyal Democrat," also said that he did not time the report's release to coincide with the election, and that he made it public as soon as it was done. "If a report like this had been released earlier, it would have done the governor a great deal more of good than releasing on the night before the election," he said.
After Palin was selected as Sen. John McCain's running mate, her attorneys attempted to take the investigation out of the hands of the legislative investigator by asking her handpicked three-person State Personnel Board to look into the matter.
"It doesn't really resolve anything," Monegan said of the report. "It is unfortunate."
The legislature's investigator, Stephen Branchflower, found evidence that Palin joined her husband, Todd, in pursuing a personal vendetta against the trooper and that she used state employees to try to settle a score in a family feud. But Petumenos said his findings are different because "the wrong statute was used as a basis for the conclusions contained in the Branchflower report."