Lawmakers vote for subpoenas for Troopergate probe

September 12, 2008 1:24:15 PM PDT
Alaska lawmakers voted Friday to subpoena the husband of Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, in a move that transformed a messy state personnel issue into a national campaign controversy. The lawmakers acted at the request of Stephen Branchflower, who is in the midst of an investigation into the governor's dismissal of the state's director of public safety.

Branchflower said he also wants to interview the governor, but omitted her from the 13-person list of subpoena targets he presented to the lawmakers overseeing his investigation.

Branchflower said Todd Palin is "such a central figure. ... I think one should be issued for him."

Two Democrats and one Republican voted for the subpoenas, rejecting attempts by the other two Republicans on the panel to delay them until after the November election.

Sen. Charlie Huggins, a Republican from Palin's hometown of Wasilla, appeared in camouflage pants on a short break from moose hunting to cast his vote. He lamented the political maneuvering that he saw as trying to interfere with the investigation.

"I see all this duck-foot action under the water," Huggins said. "Let's just get the facts on the table.

The Legislature hired Branchflower 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.

One member of Palin's administration was caught on tape discussing personal information about Wooten, raising questions of how he knew those details.

The investigation - known as "Troopergate" - began before Palin was chosen as Sen. John McCain's running mate. Since then, Palin's supporters have argued 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.

Branchflower also asked for a subpoena for the phone records of one Palin administration official, Frank Bailey. Bailey was recorded calling an Alaska State Trooper lieutenant and discussing confidential information about Wooten, including his job application and worker's compensation claim. In a deposition taken by Palin's attorney, he testified that he never saw Wooten's file, but instead received the information from Todd Palin.


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