Palin Hires Attorney For Trooper Inquiry

Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, listens to questions during an interview in her office in this Dec. 13, 2007, file photo, in Juneau, Alaska.
AP Photo/Chris Miller
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, is being represented by an attorney in the investigation into the firing of her public safety commissioner.

The Legislature is investigating whether Palin fired public safety commissioner Walt Monegan after he refused to fire a state law enforcement official who had divorced Palin's sister.

The governor's decision to hire the attorney was disclosed by the Legislature's investigating committee on Monday, not by Gov. Palin's office. The committee released an e-mailed letter it had received from Palin's new lawyer on Friday, the day McCain announced she would be his running mate.

"We have been hired to represent the Governor and the Governor's Office" in the investigation, Anchorage attorney Thomas V. Van Flein wrote. "We fully welcome a fair inquiry into these allegations. ... Please know that we intend to cooperate with this investigation."

In July, a legislative oversight committee approved $100,000 to investigate whether Palin abused her power in firing Monegan.

This political he-said, she-said has dogged Palin for nearly two months and is likely to do so for another two months leading to the Nov. 4 presidential election.

The little-known vice presidential candidate faces accusations of firing public safety commissioner Walt Monegan in what amounts to a messy Palin family drama dating to her pre-gubernatorial days.

The accuser is blogger and rental car 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 clean-hands reputation who has the most to lose.

The man in the middle is former commissioner, Monegan, who says Palin never told him to fire Mike Wooten, but he felt pressure to do so from members of her administration.

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

The matter is now in the hands of a state-hired investigator working for a Republican-dominated legislative committee that hopes to sort out the mess.

Palin steadfastly denies the allegations, and with her signature resolve, said she welcomes the investigation. "Hold me accountable," she challenge her critics.

With Palin now in the national spotlight as McCain's choice as running mate, the investigation could get more attention than the federal corruption probes involving Republican Sen. Ted Stevens and others that are already besetting this state.

"With this appointment, you've given an obscure investigation more national limelight than any grand jury," said Democratic consultant Dane Strother. "Think about it, if they come down on her, what is McCain going to do?"

McCain's campaign says it's not worried about the investigation. "The bottom line is Governor Palin has a proven record championing transparency in government and we are confident in that record," said McCain spokeswoman Maria Comella.

Monegan was fired in July, after he declined a transfer to become the director to the state's alcohol control board.