Todd Palin refuses to testify in 'troopergate' probe

Anchorage Daily NewsSeptember 18, 2008 

ANCHORAGE — Todd Palin, the husband of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, will not heed a subpoena to appear before an Alaska legislative committee this morning to testify about his role in troopergate.

That was the word Thursday from Ed O'Callaghan, a former New York federal prosecutor now working locally for the McCain-Palin campaign.

At a packed press conference at the Republican campaign office on Northern Lights Boulevard, O'Callaghan said Todd Palin submitted "objections" to the subpoena to Steve Branchflower, a retired local prosecutor whom the Legislature hired to investigate whether the governor abused her powers in firing her former public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan.

Monegan has said he believes he lost his job because he resisted pressure from the Palins to fire a state trooper involved in an ugly divorce from the governor’s sister.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which issued subpoenas for Todd Palin and a dozen other people, most of them state employees, is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. today at the legislative office building downtown to take their testimony.

But few if any of these people are expected to appear and, in fact, some of them never were actually served with the subpoenas after the governor’s appointed attorney general, Talis Colberg, declared Palin administration workers would not testify.

At least one other person on the subpoena list, former Palin aide John Bitney, already has given a statement to Branchflower.

Troopergate has become a household word for Americans across the country as the Palins campaign out of state. Locally, campaign workers are waging a full assault on the legislative investigation, holding almost daily press conferences hammering on what they call a political charade overseen by biased Democrats including Anchorage state Sen. Hollis French, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

But French and other legislators who support the investigation insist Branchflower is conducting a proper investigation, and note that a bipartisan legislative panel ordered the probe well before Alaska’s governor became John McCain's vice presidential running mate.

One Judiciary Committee member who voted to issue the subpoenas, Anchorage Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski, said Thursday the McCain campaign is "doing everything they can to delay" the investigation until after the Nov. 4 election. Witnesses who defy a subpoena risk no imminent penalties, he said.

State law says if a witness refuses to obey a subpoena, the full state Senate or House may "commit the witness for contempt" and take "such action as may be considered necessary." That could lead to physically hauling the witness in, or imposing fines and jail time. But the Legislature won’t be in session again until January.

In a letter listing Todd Palin's objections, his Anchorage attorney, Thomas Van Flein, argued that legislators lack legal authority to investigate the governor, that French has shown his bias by talking of potential impeachment, and that Branchflower has a conflict of interest because his wife worked under Monegan at the Anchorage Police Department.

Van Flein also brought up the Palins’ busy campaign schedule leading up to election day, noting Todd Palin will be out of state today.

"Moreover, because his spouse is her party's nominee for Vice President of the United States, his scheduling obligations over the next two months will make it virtually impossible for him to prepare for and present the testimony called for in the subpoena at the specified location during that time period," Van Flein’s letter says.

Campaign spokesmen said Thursday that while the governor is resisting the legislative investigation, she is cooperating with a separate inquiry the state Personnel Board is conducting.

The board, and not the Legislature, is the proper authority to look into Monegan's dismissal, they said.

At least three ethics complaints have been filed against Palin with the board, including one the governor lodged against herself on Sept. 1. Two weeks later, however, she submitted a request that the complaint be dropped, supplying a raft of state e-mails portraying Monegan as a "rogue" commissioner who was replaced for bucking the governor on budget matters, and not for his failure to fire the trooper.

O'Callaghan said he understands the Personnel Board has hired local attorney Tim Petumenos to conduct its investigation, which is expected to proceed despite the governor's request.

The Personnel Board is a three-member panel appointed by the governor. Palin appointed one member, chairwoman Debra English of Anchorage, to a new six-year term in January of this year.

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