Friday, September 19, 2008

Sarah Palin and TrooperGate Part III. Walt Monegan

Monegan : An At-Will Employee
Who Served At The Pleasure Of The Governor
- While Repeatedly Committing Insubordination

In February, Monegan signed a public letter of support for a $3.6 million project designed to keep troubled teens off the street in Anchorage — even though the governor had vetoed the project last year and hadn't included money for it in her budget this year.

"I am stunned and amazed — do you know anything about this?" budget director Karen Rehfeld wrote to two other high-level staffers when she learned of the letter.

"Think about that: one of the governor's own cabinet members publicly contradicting her veto decision," Stapleton said.

Monegan acknowledged he shouldn't have signed the letter, because it put the governor in the awkward position of defending her veto decision. But he said he thought of the letter as simply making another run at getting funding for a worthy project.

The last straw, the McCain campaign said, was in July, when Monegan planned to travel to Washington to seek federal money for a plan to assign troopers, judges and prosecutors who could exclusively handle sexual assault cases — one of the state's most intractable crime problems.

In a July 7 e-mail, John Katz, the governor's special counsel, noted two problems with the trip: The governor hadn't agreed the money should be sought, and the request was "out of sequence with our other appropriations requests and could put a strain on the evolving relationship between the Governor and Sen. (Ted) Stevens."

Four days later, Monegan was fired. He said he had kept others in the administration fully apprised of his plans to go to Washington.

When Monegan was fired, the governor offered to let him head the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Asked why someone with a history of insubordination would be given such a position, Stapleton said that without having to deal with a budget, Monegan would be able to focus on alcohol abuse issues.

The controversy erupted in the weeks following the firing, as it emerged that Palin, her husband, Todd, and several high-level staffers had contacted Monegan about state trooper Mike Wooten, who had gone through a nasty divorce from Palin's sister before she became governor. While Monegan says no one from the administration ever told him directly to fire Wooten, he says they didn't have to: There was nothing subtle about the repeated contacts.

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