October 7, 2008 in Nation/World

Palin, staff split on response to investigation of trooper firing

By MATT APUZZO Associated Press
 

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin says she’s an open book regarding an abuse-of-power investigation. Apparently her staff doesn’t feel the same way.

While the Alaska governor has waived her privacy rights so details about her firing of a state commissioner can be made public, she has not called on others in her administration to do the same. Unless they do, the results of the personnel board investigation may never be revealed.

The personnel board and the state Legislature are running separate investigations into whether Palin abused her power by firing Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, who says he resisted pressure to fire a state trooper involved in a messy divorce with the governor’s sister.

The controversy, known in Alaska as Troopergate, could hurt John McCain’s presidential bid. Legislative investigators are due to submit a report Friday that could reveal embarrassing details about Palin’s leadership and provide campaign fodder in the final weeks of before the election.

Palin refuses to cooperate with that inquiry, which she says has become too political, citing comments made by the Democratic senator overseeing the case. She is only cooperating with the personnel board inquiry – which is much more secretive, is run by people she can fire and could take years to resolve.

With the stakes so high, both sides were planning a week of court fighting ahead of Friday’s deadline.

To head off the report, five Republican state lawmakers asked the Alaska Supreme Court on Monday to shut down the legislative investigation. Oral arguments are scheduled for Wednesday.

A legal fight is also brewing over the secrecy of the personnel board investigation. Anchorage white collar attorney Meg Simonian wants the board’s independent council Tim Petumenos to conduct his probe in public and says she’s planning a lawsuit to force him to do so.

“Gov. Palin has said repeatedly, through her ‘Truth Squad,’ that she has nothing to hide and wants the personnel board’s investigation to be open,” Simonian wrote in a letter to Petumenos. “That does not appear to be true of her politically appointed employees.”

Asked whether the governor would call for her aides to open the investigation, her attorney, deferred to Petumenos.

“The governor waived her confidentiality and wanted this matter decided openly,” attorney Thomas Van Flein said. “Mr. Petumenos is in charge of his investigation and until and unless he says otherwise, we will respect his decision.”

Petumenos did not respond to a message seeking comment Monday but, in a letter to Simonian, he said he was required by law to keep the matter confidential because those under scrutiny have not waived their privacy rights.

© Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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