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September 2, 2008

Troopergate


The little-known Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin faces accusations of firing public safety commissioner Walt Monegan in a messy Palin family drama dating to her pre-gubernatorial days. Monegan refused to fire a state trooper who had divorced Palin's sister.

The accuser is executive Andrew Halcro, a Republican-turned-Independent who lost to Palin in the 2006 governor's race.

The accused is Palin, the rising Republican star with a dubious reputation who has the most to lose now that she's John McCain's choice as running mate.

The man in the middle is former commissioner Monegan, who says Palin and her administration pressured him to fire the state trooper.

Then there's trooper Mike Wooten, who jokingly used a Taser on his step-son, Palin's nephew Payton. Wooten has been reprimanded for violating nearly a dozen laws and departmental policies since December 2001.

Palin denies the allegations, claiming Monegan wasn't a team player.

Monegan was fired in July, after he declined a transfer to become the director of the state's alcohol control board (an attempt to put him out to pasture). State lawmakers want to know if Palin abused her power and if Monegan was fired for personal rather than work-related reasons.

In late July the state approved $100,000 to hire an outside investigator, and former Anchorage prosecutor Stephen Branchflower, to look into the firing.

Monegan recently told the Anchorage Daily News he was never directly told by Palin or anyone to "fire Wooten", but she and her staff repeatedly harassed him about the issue. But he maintained Palin, members of her administration and her husband, Todd Palin, raised the issue about Wooten's employment many times.

A month after Monegan was sacked, Palin's staff made at least two dozen calls to the Department of Public Safety, questioning Wooten's employment. She denied orchestrating the calls.

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