Taser-gate Report: Palin firing of Commissioner “a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority”

So the panel “investigating” Governor Sarah Palin for firing her Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan has issued their findings. The AP reports:

Investigator Stephen Branchflower, in a report by a bipartisan panel that investigated the matter, found Palin in violation of a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain.

The question immediately arises, what personal gain? How did Sarah Palin gain personally in any way by firing Monegan?

The primary findings:

Finding Number One

For the reasons explained in section IV of this report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) provides

The legislature reaffirms that each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.

Finding Number Two

I find that, although Walt Monegan’s refusal to fire Trooper Michael Wooten was not the sole reason he was fired by Governor Sarah Palin, it was likely a contributing factor to his termination as Commissioner of Public Safety. In spite of that, Governor Palin’s firing of Commissioner Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.
[emphasis added]

So she had every right to fire Monegan, his refusal to do anything about a corrupt officer may or may not have had something to do with it, and there were other legitimate factors in the decision to fire him.

Accusing someone of “an abuse of power” over this trivia? That is itself an abuse of power. In short, this report is extremely weak, and doesn’t change our earlier view of the issue at all.

Update: More analysis from Townhall:

Please understand this, if you take nothing else away from reading this post: The Branchflower Report is a series of guess and insupportable conclusions drawn by exactly one guy, and it hasn’t been approved or adopted or endorsed by so much as a single sub-committee of the Alaska Legislature, much less any kind of commission, court, jury, or other proper adjudicatory body. It contains no new bombshells in terms of factual revelations. Rather, it’s just Steve Branchflower’s opinion – after being hired and directed by one of Gov. Palin’s most vocal opponents and one of Alaska’s staunchest Obama supporters – that he thinks Gov. Palin had, at worst, mixed motives for an action that even Branchflower admits she unquestionably had both (a) the complete right to perform and (b) other very good reasons to perform.

8 responses to “Taser-gate Report: Palin firing of Commissioner “a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority”

  1. Tim O'Donnell

    Nice try with your “liberal” interpretation of the report. The finding of abuse of power was not dependent on the finding that Palin unlawfully fired Monegan. Palin, her husband, and their cronies pushed their thumbs down on state employees to fire Wooten. THAT was the personal gain … turning what had been an official state investigation of Wooten into a vendetta-filled obsession using state resources. A personal gain need not be financial. Look at the facts and the evidence, my friends.

  2. Getting rid of a corrupt officer would be a personal gain for the governor? How absurd, Tim. Speaking of nice tries, you didn’t even try to explain how it would be the least bit unethical for the governor of a state to inquire about a corrupt state employee. Further, the report didn’t establish that as the reason for Monegan’s firing.

  3. Editors,
    There are 2 parts to this report: (1) the firing of Monegan, which was not deemed unlawful and (2) the unlawful abuse of power finding, which was not dependent on a finding of unlawfulness on (1).

    The abuse of power finding was premised on Palin and her allies pressuring subordinates (not only Monegan) to sack Wooten through the unauthorized use of official state positons and resources. There had already been an official state police internal affairs investigation of Wooten’s actions, the outcome of which the Palins did not like (10 days unpaid leave for Wooten). Thus, Governor Palin decided to try and affect the employement of a state employee who is not, unlike Monegan, a member of the executive branch who can be fired at will. Rather, Wooten as a state trooper was entitled to the official investigation which had been open, investigated, and shut. Governor Palin’s intervention was for purely personnel vendetta reasons — to remedy real or manufactured grievances against Wooten (indeed, the legislative report found many of the Palin’s claims of Wooten’s behavior “not bona fide”). Indeed, contrary to your characterization, the Palin’s engaged in far more than an “inquiry” into a state employee.

  4. Ah, so if there had already been an “official state police internal affairs investigation” then nobody should have ever again had any concern about this corrupt officer? It’s unethical to disagree with the conclusions of an “official investigation”? Absurd.

    Wooten wasn’t fired. Monegan has said that Palin never ordered him to fire Wooten. So contrary to your opinions and unsubstantiated assertions (i.e. “Governor Palin’s intervention was for purely personnel vendetta reasons”), it was not more than an inquiry, and an entirely legitimate one.

  5. Sure, one may disagree with the outcome of any investigation. but it does not give a state official the right to affect the employment of a state employee outside the bounds of etablished legal procedures. Those procedures were embodied in collective bargaining agreement between the state of Alaska, of which Gov. Palin is the top agent, and the representative of the troopers. The state is free to use whatever procedures are in that agreement, but may lawfully not use extra-contractual means, here coercion, to affect a trooper’s employment. If the state wanted to reopen a case and the agreement allowed that, the state could have done so. The state chose not to, and thus the Palins went on their vendetta fueled rampage.

    Moreover, Instructions need not be airtight explicit (i.e., “fire him”) in order for one to get the intended message, and surely that is what happened here based on testimony of state employees. For example, Kim Peterson, special asst. to Monegan, said she received many calls where she felt pressure to do something with Monegan, like assign him to a desk job. That’s just one of apparently many calls the Palins and their allies made to pressure state employees to fire or demote Wooten, and also to delve into his confidential wokers’ compensation files. Thus, contrary to your characterization, far more than “concern” or “disagreement” was expressed. Rather, the Palins attempted, outside legal process, to affect the terms and conditions of Wooten’s employment through the coercement of state employees.

  6. But Palin did not affect Wooten’s employment, that is a fact.

    “vendetta fueled rampage”? That’s just hysterical.

    If there’s anything unethical in this story, perhaps it’s the ability of a public employee union to protect a corrupt officer.

  7. ok I’ll give you the rampage was over the top, but the point is there are procedures and policies to address these employment matters and the Palins went over the line. thanks for providing a venue to discuss.

  8. Perhaps then the real problem is that a line that protects a corrupt officer is drawn in the wrong place.

    If Palin had tried to get an innocent officer fired simply because of a messy divorce, that would clearly have been unethical. But that’s not at all the context in this case. Given that there were legitimate concerns about Wooten’s conduct, an accusation of “abuse of power”, especially a few weeks before the national election, and given the obvious political biases of many of the people involved in the investigation and the press coverage of it, is grossly unfair and irresponsible. “Abuse of power” is a serious charge; the investigators had a duty to show some reasonable discretion, which they failed to do.