Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin – collaborating with her husband Todd and several senior aides – conducted what amounted to a rogue investigation into suspicions that her ex-brother-in-law was faking a job-related injury as a state trooper, according to state documents, law enforcement officials and former aides to Palin.
The investigation was conducted using the resources of Gov. Palin’s office and had the goal of destroying Mike Wooten’s career with the Alaska state troopers, the documents and the interviews reveal.
A little-noticed passage in a transcript of a conversation between Frank Bailey, Palin’s director of boards and commissions, and Alaska State Trooper Lt. Rodney Dial shows that Palin’s office had developed information against Wooten that was turned over to the state’s worker’s compensation board, purportedly to prove that Wooten was not too sick or injured to work.
In the Feb. 28, 2008, conversation with Dial, Bailey disclosed that Gov. Palin and her husband had uncovered information about the trooper that was not publicly available and had collected statements about Wooten going “snowmachining” when he was out on workers comp for a back injury.
“The situation where [Wooten] declared workers comp, but then was caught on an eight-mile snowmachining [sic] trip days — days after, you know, that — that started coming up there,” Bailey said. “So we collected statements that we forwarded on to worker’s comp.”
Bailey said the governor’s office also obtained information that Wooten had “applied for and got a moose ticket to go hunt a moose.”
When the governor’s office learned about the hunting permit, Bailey said he followed up on the lead by talking to Megan Peters, the Alaska state troopers’ public information officer.
“She would not give me — I mean as soon as I mentioned the name Wooten, I told her that, you know, I don’t expect you to share anything with me, but there’s a sense that nothing’s happening with this situation and I want you to have this new information we just received,” Bailey told Dial. “But, of course, I would never hear anything back from that.”
Bailey also voiced frustration that police officials had cautioned Gov. Palin and her husband to back off their campaign to get Trooper Wooten fired.
“Everything that has come back to — to Todd and the governor is basically stay — stay away there’s nothing we can do,” Bailey told Dial. “And that’s just frustrating. … Todd and Sarah are scratching their heads, ‘Why on earth … is this guy still representing the department?’”
Role of ‘First Dude’
The emerging public record shows that Gov. Palin and her husband Todd – who calls himself Alaska’s “First Dude” – have been waging a vendetta to get Trooper Wooten fired since shortly after Palin took office in December 2006.
Even earlier, Palin was enmeshed in a messy family feud with Wooten, her sister’s ex-husband. Through complaints to his superiors, Palin had helped engineer Wooten’s five-day suspension from the state police for various examples of personal misconduct.
In January 2007, a month into Palin’s term, her husband, Todd, invited Palin’s new public safety commissioner Monegan to the governor’s office, where Todd Palin urged Monegan to reopen the Wooten case. After checking on it, Monegan said he informed Todd Palin that he couldn’t do anything because the case was closed.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Monegan said that a few days later, the governor also called him about the Wooten matter and he gave her the same answer. Monegan said Gov. Palin brought the issue up again in a February 2007 meeting at the state capitol, prompting a warning that she should back off.
However, rather than follow that advice, Gov. Palin and her husband appear to have enlisted senior state officials to keep the pressure on. Monegan said he began getting telephone calls from Palin’s aides about Wooten, including from then-chief of staff Mike Tibbles; Commissioner Annette Kreitzer of the Department of Administration; and Attorney General Talis Colberg.
Colberg acknowledged making the call, after an inquiry from Todd Palin about “the process” for handling a threatening trooper, and then relaying back the response from Monegan that the issue had been handled and nothing more could be done.
Todd Palin, who serves as an unofficial adviser to the governor and has billed the state for expenses for trips he takes on his wife’s behalf, continued collecting evidence against Wooten and lobbying for his dismissal. The governor’s husband acknowledged giving Wooten’s boss, Col. Audie Holloway, photos of Wooten driving a snowmobile while he was out of work on worker’s comp.
Alaska’s Deputy Attorney General Michael Barnhill told the Post that a member of the governor’s staff, personnel director Diane Kiesel, also made at least one call to Col. Holloway about the snowmobile incident. [Washington Post, Aug. 31, 2008]