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Todd Palin Defends Trooper Actions
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s husband admits he was obsessed with getting his wife’s estranged brother-in-law fired from the state troopers, so much so that Gov. Palin once told him to “stop talking about it with her,” according to a 25-page sworn affidavit given to a state investigator.
In the affidavit, Todd Palin takes much of the responsibility for pestering state officials about firing Trooper Mike Wooten, apparently to deflect some of the blame for the “Troopergate” affair from his wife, now the Republican vice presidential nominee.
"I had hundreds of conversations with my family, with friends, with colleagues, and with just about everyone I could -- including government officials,” Todd Palin wrote. “In fact, I talked about Wooten so much over the years that my wife told me to stop talking about it with her."
Gov. Palin’s own involvement in pressing for Wooten’s dismissal and her firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan in July after he refused to get rid of Wooten prompted a legislative investigation headed by independent counsel Steve Branchflower.
Todd Palin has resisted a subpoena from Branchflower, but Palin’s lawyers put out the affidavit in advance of Branchflower’s scheduled release of a report on the case on Friday.
The affidavit shows that Todd Palin spent much of Gov. Palin's nearly two years in office trying to get Wooten kicked off the police force for alleged misconduct. Wooten was involved in a bitter divorce and child-custody battle with Gov. Palin’s sister, Molly McCann.
But Todd Palin's claim in his affidavit that Sarah Palin was disinterested in the efforts to get her former brother-in-law fired stands in stark contrast to documents that are already public.
Before becoming governor, Sarah Palin was deeply involved in the dispute with Wooten, the record shows. She filed several formal complaints against her ex-brother-in-law over the course of three years alleging he engaged in illegal behavior while on duty and had threatened her family.
In a three-page, sometimes rambling e-mail dated Aug. 10, 2005, and sent to Wooten’s boss, Col. Julia Grimes, Palin said the fact that her brother-in-law continued to be employed as a trooper caused Palin, her family and the community to lose faith in the “Trooper organization.”
Sarah Palin’s interest in the Wooten matter continued after she was sworn in as governor in December 2006. Palin – along with her husband and senior aides – conducted what amounted to a rogue investigation into suspicions that Wooten was faking a job-related injury, according to state documents, law enforcement officials and former aides to Palin.
John Cyr, executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association which represents Wooten and other state troopers, said Wooten was approved for workers comp benefits in January 2007 because he had suffered a back injury when he pulled a dead body from a wrecked automobile and slipped on icy pavement.
After Wooten started receiving workers comp, Todd Palin began following him around “snapping pictures,” Cyr said.
In the affidavit, Todd Palin essentially corroborated that claim.
“In 2007, I was at the Yetna River area,” Todd Palin wrote, “when I saw Trooper Wooten operating a snow-machine — even as he claimed to the Alaska State Troopers that he was fully disabled an unable to work. This typically dishonest disregard of the law offended me, and I offered photographs of Wooten’s snow-machine use to the appropriate authorities.”
Gov. Palin also continued bringing up the family feud with other state officials. She sent an e-mail to Monegan on July 17, 2007, with a copy to Attorney General Talis Colberg, regarding proposed handgun legislation that would bar weapon sales to people who had made violent threats.
“The first thought that hit me,” Palin wrote, “about people not being able to buy guns when they’re threatening to kill someone went to my ex brother-in-law, the trooper, who threatened to kill my dad yet was not even reprimanded by his bosses and still to this day carries a gun, of course. …
“We can’t have double standards. Remember when that death threat was reported, and follow-on threats from Mike [Wooten] that he was going ‘to bring Sarah and her family down’ - instead of any reprimand WE were told by trooper union personnel that we’d be sued if we talked about those threats.
“Amazing. And he’s still a trooper, and he still carries a gun, and he still tells anyone who will listen that he will never work for that b*tch (me) because he has such anger and distain [sic] toward my family.”
At the time, Palin was unaware that Alaska state troopers had already conducted an internal investigation into more than three dozen complaints that she and her family had filed against Wooten and that he had been suspended for five days.
In the affidavit, Todd Palin said he had many conversations about Wooten with Mike Tibbles, Gov. Palin's chief of staff, "gave him a packet of information" on Wooten, and "spoke to him a couple of times about my questions whether Wooten was following the law on his workers' comp claim."
Todd Palin said he "makes no apologies for wanting to protect my family and wanting to publicize the injustice of a violent trooper keeping his badge and abusing the workers' compensation system."
Todd Palin denied pressuring Monegan to fire Wooten and traced Monegan’s dismissal to other disputes, such as budgetary disagreements and Monegan’s failure to defend Gov. Palin from false statements about her record on public safety and funding levels for troopers.
“I never told [Monegan] to fire Wooten,” Todd Palin said. “My understanding was that he was in charge of receiving any kind of complaint about a trooper. That was his job. At no time did Monegan tell me he felt ‘pressure’ nor would I expect the top law enforcement officer in our state to feel ‘pressure’ to do anything he did not think was right.”
Todd Palin also attacked the integrity of the current inquiry into whether Gov. Palin abused her authority, calling it “a rush to judgment.”
He added that "the real investigation that needs to be conducted for the best interests of the public at large is the Department of Public Safety's unwillingness to discipline its own."
Jason Leopold has launched a new Web site, The Public Record, at www.pubrecord.org.
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