JUNEAU, Alaska – The Alaska Senate on Friday found Gov. Sarah Palin’s husband and nine state employees, including some of her top aides, in contempt for ignoring subpoenas to testify in the Legislature’s Troopergate investigation.
The Senate said it would seek no punishment for the witnesses’ failure to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee last fall in an investigation into the governor’s firing of her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan.
“During the Monegan investigation, we were reminded that the legislative branch’s power of subpoena is an important one, and must be respected by the executive branch,” said Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage. “With this resolution, the Senate is making it clear that we are a coequal branch of state government.”
The witnesses later provided sworn written statements after a lawsuit filed on behalf of seven of the state employees by state Attorney General Talis Colberg was dismissed in Superior Court. The case was appealed to the state Supreme Court.
The investigation was looking into whether Palin, assisted by aides and her husband, Todd, pressured Monegan to fire a state trooper – the ex-husband of Palin’s sister – and then fired Monegan when he refused. Palin said Monegan was ousted over budget disagreements.
Attorney Thomas Van Flein, who represented Todd Palin, said the Senate should have allowed witnesses an opportunity to state their case before issuing the resolution.
“They didn’t allow any opportunity to present actual evidence and facts. It appears to be pure political grandstanding,” he said.
French said the witnesses’ decision to eventually provide written statements led to the Senate’s decision not to impose any penalties. State statute provides for fines and a maximum of six months in jail for contempt of legislative subpoenas.