Situation as 'Grave,'
Called for Apology
September 11, 2008; Page A8
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- An informal adviser who has counseled Gov. Sarah Palin on ethics issues urged her in July to apologize for her handling of the dismissal of the state's public safety commissioner and warned that the matter could snowball into a bigger scandal.
|Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten (right) answers questions about the 'Troopergate' investigation on Tuesday.|
He also said, in a letter reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, that she should fire any aides who had raised concerns with the chief over a state trooper who was involved in a bitter divorce with the governor's sister.
In the letter, written before Sen. John McCain picked the Alaska governor as his running mate, former U.S. Attorney Wevley Shea warned Gov. Palin that "the situation is now grave" and recommended that she and her husband, Todd Palin, apologize for "overreaching or perceived overreaching" for using her position to try to get Trooper Mike Wooten fired from the force.
Mr. Shea was acting on his own in writing the letter, with no official capacity. In late 2006, Gov. Palin asked him to co-write an ethics report for Gov. Palin with then-House Democratic leader Ethan Berkowitz that recommended new financial-disclosure rules for elected and appointed officials in the statehouse. That report served as a key document for the ethics bill she later signed into law.
After his initial letter in July, Mr. Shea followed up with another letter, dated Aug. 4, in which he told Gov. Palin that she probably couldn't legally shun a legislative investigation into the firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.
Gov. Palin has taken the opposite tack, hiring a private attorney to advise in a matter that has become known as "Troopergate." Seven Palin administration employees have refused to meet with the independent investigator. The McCain-Palin campaign has argued that the state legislature has no right to look into the matter. Palin spokesmen say the state personnel board is the appropriate investigative body, setting up a showdown between the state's legislative and executive branches.
|Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in Juneau, Alaska, on Sept. 5, 2007.|
The McCain-Palin campaign referred comment on the letters to the governor's office, which confirmed receipt of them. "While we can't always act on every idea, Gov. Palin thanks Mr. Shea for his counsel," Sharon Leighow, the governor's deputy press secretary, said in a statement.
Members of the House and Judiciary committees overseeing the probe -- which lawmakers want wrapped up by early October -- meet Friday to consider issuing subpoenas to the governor's staff.
Mr. Shea, in his Aug. 4 letter, warned Gov. Palin against taking her current approach. "My feeling is this is not a personnel matter. It doesn't have anything to do with the governing of the state of Alaska," he said in an interview this week.
The governor has denied any wrongdoing in the matter and said the commissioner was removed over an unrelated budget dispute. After bipartisan committees of the state legislature in late July approved $100,000 to hire an independent investigator to see if any laws were broken, Gov. Palin pledged the full cooperation of herself and her staff.