Alaska's governor admits her staff tried to have trooper fired

Anchorage Daily NewsAugust 14, 2008 

Gov. Sarah Palin on Wednesday revealed an audio recording that shows an aide pressuring the Public Safety Department to fire a state trooper embroiled in a custody battle with her sister.

Palin, who has previously said her administration didn't exert pressure to get rid of trooper Mike Wooten, also disclosed that members of her staff had made about two dozen contacts with public safety officials about the trooper.

"I do now have to tell Alaskans that such pressure could have been perceived to exist although I have only now become aware of it," Palin said.

But Palin said her decision to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan last month had nothing to do with his refusal to dump trooper Mike Wooten.

The governor said evidence of what she called a "smoking gun" conversation, and other calls made by her aides, only recently surfaced as the attorney general started an inquiry at her request into the circumstances surrounding her firing of Monegan. Palin wanted the review because a special investigator hired by the Legislature is about to investigate the firing and a legislator has been quoted in a newspaper story talking about impeachment.

The majority of the calls came from Palin's chief of staff at the time, Mike Tibbles, according to an information gathered by the state attorney general's office. Attorney General Talis Colberg and Palin's husband, Todd, also contacted Monegan about the trooper.

Palin said she'd only known about some of the contacts and never asked anyone on her staff to get in touch with state public safety officials about Wooten.

"Many of these inquiries were completely appropriate. However, the serial nature of the contacts could be perceived as some kind of pressure, presumably at my direction," she said.

Palin said the "most disturbing" was a phone call Frank Bailey, the governor's director of boards and commissions, made to trooper Lt. Rodney Dial in February. The Public Safety Department recorded the call, as it does routinely.

Palin, who said she'd only just learned of the call, released a recorded copy of it to the press on Wednesday. In it, Bailey clearly pressures the lieutenant.

Bailey told him during the conversation that Palin and her husband want to know why Wooten still has a job.

"Todd and Sarah are scratching their heads, 'Why on earth hasn't this, why is this guy still representing the department?' He's a horrible recruiting tool, you know," Bailey told the lieutenant.

Bailey made several accusations against Wooten in the call, including that he lied on his application. Dial asked Bailey how he knew about any issue with the application.

"I used to be a recruiter. I know a lot of times that information is extremely confidential," Dial told him.

Read the full story at adn.com.

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