State Probing Palin's Troopergate

CBS News Investigative Producer Laura Strickler and Kim Lengle wrote this story for CBSNews.com.

Alaskans refer to it as "troopergate" but the McCain campaign is convinced the investigation into Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's attempts to fire her ex-brother-in-law, state Trooper Mike Wooten, will show no wrongdoing. Palin allegedly demanded that Wooten be fired from his job while Wooten was in the midst of a bitter divorce with her sister. The results of the investigation will be released a few days before the November election.

The focus of the investigation will surround whether Palin abused her power as governor by pressuring Public Safety Commissioner, Walt Monegan, to fire Wooten. After Monegan declined to fire Wooten, Palin asked him to step down. Investigators will try and figure out if the two incidents are related, Palin says they are not.

A senior official from the McCain campaign close to the vetting process says they were "convinced there was no impropriety" after thoroughly researching the firing. The source also said they "spent a lot of time" looking into it.

John Cyr runs the Public Safety Employees Association that represents Wooten. Cyr's organization is planning to file a new round of ethics complaints against the Palin administration related to the firing of Monegan. He says the national spotlight on the four-year-old issue is quite a change, "I don't have a strategy, I am the executive of a little union at the fringe of the earth," Cyr told CBS News.

And Cyr notes that according to his records, Wooten has not had a formal complaint filed against him in his eight years as a trooper with the exception of the raft of complaints from the Palin family. He says his office handles about 40 serious trooper complaints each year.

According to The Associated Press, the Palin family accused Wooten of drinking a beer while in his patrol car, illegal hunting and taser-ing his 11-year-old stepson. They also claimed Wooten threatened to kill Sarah Palin's father.

"He is 6 foot 5 and goes 285 - which is not bad if you are an Alaska state trooper, but it doesn't make you exactly sympathetic in the eyes of the public," Cyr told CBS News.

But while Wooten has support of the union, one Alaska trooper who did not want to be named tells CBS News in his opinion the accusations against Wooten reflect negatively on all troopers, "Wooten had been making extremely poor decisions and I would never want to work with the guy."

Wooten is currently on the job as a trooper in the Mat-Su Valley region of Alaska which includes the town of Wasilla, Palin's hometown. The region he patrols is the size of the state of West Virginia, Cyr says.
By Laura Strickler
  • Laura Strickler

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