Gov. Sarah Palin abused the powers of her office by pressuring subordinates to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired, an investigation by the Alaska Legislature has concluded.
A report on the bipartisan inquiry that was released Friday by lawmakers in Anchorage concluded, however, that Palin was within her right to dismiss her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, who was the trooper's boss.
The public portion of the report on the inquiry concluded that Palin violated the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act by allowing pressure to be exerted to get State Trooper Michael Wooten, her former brother-in-law, dismissed.
In the 263 pages that were released, the independent investigator, Stephen Branchflower, a former Anchorage prosecutor, said Palin wrongfully allowed her husband, Todd, to use state resources as part of the effort to have Wooten dismissed.
Further, it says, she “knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda.”
Branchflower based his finding of abuse of power on Alaska's Executive Branch Ethics Act, which was established to “discourage executive branch employees from acting upon personal interest in the performance of their public responsibilities and to avoid conflicts of interest in the performance of duty,” the report says.
“I disagree,” said Palin attorney Thomas Van Flein. “In order to violate the ethics law, there has to be some personal gain, usually financial. Mr. Branchflower has failed to identify any financial gain.”
The report concluded that “Gov. Palin's firing of Commissioner Walt Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.” It cites the Alaska Constitution, which says “the governor may discharge department heads without cause” and that department heads “serve at the pleasure of the governor.”