Alaska panel OKs 'troopergate' subpoena for Todd Palin

Anchorage Daily NewsSeptember 12, 2008 

The state Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-2 today to subpoena 13 people -- including the husband of Gov. Sarah Palin -- in an investigation of whether Palin abused her power in trying to get her former brother-in-law fired.

The legislative probe has taken on new significance since Republican presidential candidate John McCain picked Palin as his running mate.

Retired prosecutor Stephen Branchflower asked the state House and Senate judiciary committees for power to subpoena the 13 witnesses, including Todd Palin, the governor's husband.

"He's such a central figure. ... I think one should be issued for him," Branchflower said.

The Senate committees granted the request. Voting for were Sens. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, and two Anchorage Democrats, Hollis French and Bill Wielechowski.

Voting no were Sens. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, and Gene Therriault, R-North Pole.

Branchflower said he wants to interview Palin herself but did not ask for a subpoena for her.

In addition to authorizing subpoenas for the 13 witnesses, most of whom are state officials, the committee OK'd subpoenaing the cell phone records of Frank Bailey, a Palin aide who was placed on leave last month.

The Legislature hired Branchflower in early August to examine whether Palin ousted her public safety commissioner in July because he had refused to fire state trooper Mike Wooten. Wooten went through a messy divorce from Palin's sister, and the investigation essentially is looking at whether Palin used her power to try to settle a personal score.

Bailey was caught on tape discussing personal information about Wooten, raising questions of how he knew those details.

In sworn testimony taken by Palin's attorney, Bailey said he never saw Wooten's file but instead received the information from Todd Palin.

The state has threatened to go to court to block at least some of the subpoenas unless lawmakers agree the governor has legal authority to designate staff to review confidential personnel files. Branchflower said today he agreed with that interpretation of state law.

The investigation -- known as "Troopergate" -- began before Palin was chosen as McCain's running mate. Since then, Palin's supporters and even her lawyer have charged that the investigation is politically motivated and urged lawmakers to turn the matter over to the three-member State Personnel Board, which is appointed by the governor and charged with handling ethics complaints.

Palin has said she fired the commissioner, Walt Monegan, over disagreements about budget priorities. Monegan says he received repeated e-mails and phone calls from Palin, her husband and her staff expressing dismay over Wooten's continued employment.

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