Archive for the ‘Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act’ Category

Palin faces new ethics complaint over kids’ travel
By RACHEL D’ORO – 18 hours ago

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A new ethics complaint has been filed against Sarah Palin, accusing the Alaska governor of abusing her power by charging the state when her children traveled with her.

The complaint alleges that the Republican vice presidential nominee used her official position as governor for personal gain, violating a statute of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. It follows a report by The Associated Press last week that Palin charged the state more than $21,000 for her three daughters’ commercial flights, including events where they weren’t invited, and later ordered their expense forms amended to specify official state business.

In some cases, Palin also has charged the state for hotel rooms for the girls.

The complaint released Wednesday says Palin charged the travel costs for events her children were not invited to and where they served in no legitimate state purpose or business.

“Governor Palin intentionally secured unwarranted benefits for family members, improperly used state property to benefit her personal and financial interests, and illegally altered documents that were the subject of a Public Records request,” the complaint states.

Earlier this month, a legislative report found Palin violated state ethics laws when she fired her public safety commissioner. The state’s Personnel Board also has hired an independent counsel for a similar investigation.

Under Alaska law, it is up to the Personnel Board to decide whether Palin violated state law. The attorney general’s office didn’t return messages seeking comment Wednesday, but has previously said the possible penalties in the first Personnel Board investigation could carry a possible fine of up to $5,000.

The latest complaint was filed by Frank Gwartney, an Anchorage Democrat who supports Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Gwartney, 60, said he is fed up with “all the corruption” among Alaska’s elected officials, including Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who was convicted this week on federal corruption charges.

“Sarah ran on this very self righteous campaign on ethics and anti-corruption,” Gwartney told the AP. “She is no different from the others.”

Palin’s attorney, Thomas Van Flein, said he was not aware of the complaint and could not comment.

Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said she can’t comment specifically on the complaint because it is confidential. But she said generally the first family is expected to participate in community activities across Alaska and represents the state on travels.

“We receive hundreds of invitations for the governor each month, and a majority of them request the first family participate,” Leighow said. “The Palin children can only participate in a fraction of the events.”

Responding to the travel issue, Palin told Fox News last week that every Alaska governor has traveled with family when it’s a first family function. “And it’s always been charged to the state,” she said. “That’s part of the job.”

The state already is reviewing nearly $17,000 in per diem payments to Palin for 312 nights she slept at her home in Wasilla, about an hour’s drive from her satellite office in Anchorage.

In the complaint, Gwartney asks that the matter be investigated by the Alaska Personnel Board — a three-member panel is appointed by the governor.

The ethics travel grievance was first reported by CBS News.


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Alaska Inquiry Concludes Palin Abused Powers
Published: October 10, 2008

Gov. Sarah Palin abused the powers of her office by pressuring subordinates to try to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired, an investigation by the Alaska Legislature has concluded. The inquiry found, however, that she was within her right to dismiss her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, who was the trooper’s boss.

A 263-page report released Friday by lawmakers in Alaska found that Ms. Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, had herself exerted pressure to get Trooper Michael Wooten dismissed, as well as allowed her husband and subordinates to press for his firing, largely as a result of his temperament and past disciplinary problems.

“Such impermissible and repeated contacts,” the report states, “create conflicts of interests for subordinate employees who must choose to either please a superior or run the risk of facing that superior’s displeasure and the possible consequences of that displeasure.” The report concludes that the action was a violation of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.

What now lies ahead is not fully known at this point. Ms. Palin could be censured by the Legislature, but that is unlikely.

Ms. Palin, who had been elected governor in 2006, was tapped as Senator John McCain’s running mate in late August, about a month after an inquiry was opened into her firing of Mr. Monegan. Her political ascendancy took what was essentially a state personnel matter and elevated it into a national issue, one that has been simmering in the background of an increasingly heated presidential race.

In the report, the independent investigator, Stephen E. Branchflower, a former prosecutor in Anchorage, said that Ms. Palin wrongfully allowed her husband, Todd, to use state resources as part of the effort to have Trooper Wooten dismissed.

The report says she knowingly “permitted Todd Palin to use the governor’s office and the resources of the governor’s office, including access to state employees, to continue to contact subordinate state employees in an effort to find some way to get Trooper Wooten fired.”

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.”

Three years ago, Trooper Wooten and the governor’s sister, Molly McCann, were locked in a harsh divorce and child-custody battle that further turned the Palin family against him. The couple divorced in January 2006.

As a result of several complaints against Trooper Wooten, he was suspended from the state police force for five days. However, Mr. Branchflower’s report found numerous instances in which Ms. Palin, her husband and her subordinates tried to press for harsher punishment, even though Mr. Monegan and others told them they had gone as far as the law and civil service rules would allow.

Ms. Palin has denied that anyone told Mr. Monegan to dismiss Trooper Wooten, or that the commissioner’s ouster had anything to do with the trooper, who remains on the force.

Mr. Monegan has said that he believes he lost his job because he would not bend to pressure to dismiss Trooper Wooten. On July 28, the Legislative Council, a bipartisan body of House and Senate members that can convene to make decisions when the Legislature is not in session, approved an independent investigation into whether the governor abused the powers of her office to pursue a personal vendetta.

Mr. Monegan said in an interview Friday night that he felt relieved.

“I feel that my beliefs and opinions that Wooten was a significant factor, if not the factor, in my termination have been validated,” Mr. Monegan said, adding, “I was resisting the governor from the very beginning on the Wooten matter to protect her from exactly what just happened to her here, being found to have acted inappropriately.”

The report was released after Alaska lawmakers emerged from a private session in Anchorage where they spent more than of six hours discussing the ethics report and what portions should be made public. The legislative council ended up voting unanimously to make part of the overall report public.

At a news conference Friday evening, a local McCain-Palin campaign spokeswoman, Meghan Stapleton, said that Mr. Branchflower’s abuse of power finding was the result of an “overreach” by the investigator who went beyond “the intent of the original” inquiry.

Ms. Stapleton added that the governor “feels absolutely vindicated” because the report concluded that Ms. Palin was acting within her legal authority when she “reassigned” Mr. Monegan. On July 11, he was told by the governor’s acting chief of staff that Ms. Palin wanted him to head the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, and that she wanted to take the public safety agency in a new direction.

In an e-mail statement, Ms. Stapleton said the report showed that the investigation was a “partisan led inquiry run by Obama supporters and the Palins were completely justified in their concern regarding Trooper Wooten given his violent and rogue behavior.”

Minutes after the report was released, the Obama campaign sent an Associated Press article in an e-mail message to reporters, with the subject line, “Palin ‘unlawfully abused her authority.’ ” It contained no other comment.

A pre-emptive report on the investigation by the McCain-Palin campaign, released late Thursday, said that beginning in October 2007, the governor and members of her administration repeatedly clashed with Mr. Monegan over budgetary issues and the direction of his agency.

After months of “repeatedly ignoring the governor’s budget priorities, making public statements that directly challenged the governor’s policy agenda and taking numerous unilateral actions in conflict with the governor in support of his own policy agenda, his replacement in July 2008 should have come as no surprise,” that report said.

Mr. 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.

It says, however, that “Governor 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.”

The report continues, “In light of this constitutional and statutory authority, it is clear that Governor Palin could fire Commissioner Walt Monegan at will, for almost any reason, or no reason at all.”

The report states that, while there is no doubt that Mr. Monegan’s “failure to fire Trooper Wooten was a substantial factor in his own firing, the evidence suggest it was not the sole reason.”

The report chastised Ms. Palin for declining to be interviewed.

Legislative leaders said that in cases like this, a violation of the ethics law would typically be resolved by the state Personnel Board. However, that chain of events is complicated by the fact that the panel is conducting an inquiry of its own. Ms. Palin has pledged to cooperate with that investigation.

Even as Ms. Palin drew large crowds as she campaigned across the United States, the issue was brewing in Alaska. But the campaign repeatedly shrugged off the accusations, stating that they were not serious and that she was not guilty of any wrongdoing.

Still, the accusations undermined the campaign’s portrayal of Ms. Palin as a “maverick” and an ethics reformer who has taken on special interests and fought for average residents.

The McCain campaign flew operatives into Alaska to wage a public relations campaign to discredit the investigation and to help mount legal challenges to it.

Sarah Palin Guilty - Troopergate Scandal - Sarah Palin Found Guilty Of Unlawfully Abusing Her Power As Governor

Sarah Palin Guilty - Troopergate Scandal - Sarah Palin Found Guilty Of Unlawfully Abusing Her Power As Governor

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Legislative panel: Sarah Palin abused authority

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A legislative committee investigating Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has found she unlawfully abused her authority in firing the state’s public safety commissioner.

The investigative report concludes that a family grudge wasn’t the sole reason for firing Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan but says it likely was a contributing factor.

The Republican vice presidential nominee has been accused of firing a commissioner to settle a family dispute. Palin supporters have called the investigation politically motivated.

Monegan says he was dismissed as retribution for resisting pressure to fire a state trooper involved in a bitter divorce with the governor’s sister. Palin says Monegan was fired as part of a legitimate budget dispute.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska lawmakers have emerged from a private session in Anchorage where they spent more than six hours discussing a politically charged ethics report into Gov. Sarah Palin’s firing of her state public safety commissioner.

The legislative panel began its public session by discussing whether to release the report’s findings. The investigation was examining whether Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, fired a state commissioner to settle a family dispute. The report was also expected to touch on whether Palin’s husband meddled in state affairs and whether her administration inappropriately accessed employee medical records.

Critics claim Palin fired Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan after months of pressure on him to fire Mike Wooten, a state trooper involved in a nasty divorce and custody dispute with the governor’s sister.

Lawmakers indicated they planned to release the report even though there was disagreement about its findings.

“I think there are some problems in this report,” Republican state Sen. Gary Stevens. “I would encourage people to be very cautious, to look at this with a jaundiced eye.”

Sarah Palin Guilty - Troopergate Scandal - Sarah Palin Found Guilty Of Unlawfully Abusing Her Power As Governor

Sarah Palin Guilty - Troopergate Scandal - Sarah Palin Found Guilty Of Unlawfully Abusing Her Power As Governor

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Alaska panel finds Palin abused power in firing

By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writer
3 minutes ago

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Sarah Palin unlawfully abused her power as governor by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper, the chief investigator of an Alaska legislative panel concluded Friday. The politically charged inquiry imperiled her reputation as a reformer on John McCain’s Republican ticket.

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 inquiry looked into her dismissal of Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan, who said he lost his job because he resisted pressure to fire a state trooper involved in a bitter divorce with the governor’s sister. Palin says Monegan was fired as part of a legitimate budget dispute.

The report found that Palin let the family grudge influence her decision-making even if it was not the sole reason Monegan was dismissed. “I feel vindicated,” Monegan said. “It sounds like they’ve validated my belief and opinions. And that tells me I’m not totally out in left field.”

Branchflower said Palin violated a statute of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.

Palin and McCain’s supporters had hoped the inquiry’s finding would be delayed until after the presidential election to spare her any embarrassment and to put aside an enduring distraction as she campaigns as McCain’s running mate in an uphill contest against Democrat Barack Obama.

But the panel of lawmakers voted to release the report, although not without dissension. There was no immediate vote on whether to endorse its findings.

“I think there are some problems in this report,” said Republican state Sen. Gary Stevens, a member of the panel. “I would encourage people to be very cautious, to look at this with a jaundiced eye.”

The nearly 300-page report does not recommend sanctions or a criminal investigation.

The investigation revealed that Palin’s husband, Todd, has extraordinary access to the governor’s office and her closest advisers. He used that access to try to get trooper Mike Wooten fired, the report found.

Branchflower faulted Sarah Palin for taking no action to stop that. He also noted there is evidence the governor herself participated in the effort.

Sarah Palin Guilty - Troopergate Scandal - Sarah Palin Found Guilty Of Unlawfully Abusing Her Power As Governor

Sarah Palin Guilty - Troopergate Scandal - Sarah Palin Found Guilty Of Unlawfully Abusing Her Power As Governor

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