Palin within rules in firing, panel finds

A new report released Monday on the eve of the election exonerates Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in the Troopergate controversy.

The state Personnel Board-sanctioned investigation is the second into whether Republican presidential candidate John McCain's running mate violated state ethics law in firing her public safety commissioner, and it contradicts the earlier findings by a special counsel hired by the state Legislature.

Both investigations found that Palin was within her rights to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.

But the new report says Palin didn't violate the state ethics law in dismissing Monegan as public safety commissioner. It said the Legislature's investigator was wrong to conclude that Palin abused her power by allowing aides and her husband, Todd, to pressure Monegan and others to dismiss her ex-brother-in-law, Trooper Mike Wooten. Palin was accused of firing Monegan after Wooten stayed on the job.

The Palins have argued that their complaints that Wooten shouldn't be on the force were justified. The report also said Palin didn't violate the ethics law in connection to Wooten.

The report presents the findings and recommendations of Anchorage lawyer Timothy Petumenos, hired as independent counsel for the three-person Personnel Board to examine several complaints against Palin.

Petumenos wrote the Legislature's special counsel, former state prosecutor Steve Branchflower, used the wrong state law as the basis for his conclusions and also misconstrued the evidence.