The investigation is expanding to cover other ethics charges against Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, including the “harassment” of former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, who a legislative panel determined Palin fired unethically if not unlawfully (though the probe so far says she did violate the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act).
The investigator, Tim Petumenos, did not say who else is under scrutiny. But in two recent letters describing his inquiry, he cited the consolidation of complaints and the involvement of other officials as a reason for not going along with Palin’s request to make the examination of her activities more public.
Two other ethics complaints involving Palin are known. One, by activist Andree McLeod, alleges that state hiring practices were circumvented for a Palin supporter. The case is not related to Monegan’s firing. The other, by the Public Safety Employees Association, alleges that trooper Mike Wooten’s personnel file was illegally breached by state officials.
John Cyr, the PSEA executive director, said Monday the union plans to amend its complaint to be sure the board investigates “harassment” of Wooten as well.
Petumenos has not spoken to the press, in keeping with the secrecy of the state process. But he gave a rough description of the investigation’s course in two letters to an Anchorage attorney threatening a lawsuit over Palin’s effort to waive confidentiality.
Attention is turning this week to the Personnel Board — the state’s official avenue for investigating ethics complaints — after release of the Legislature’s Troopergate investigation last Friday. The Legislature’s investigator concluded that Palin was within her rights to fire Monegan as public safety commissioner, but abused her power and broke the ethics law in joining her husband to push for the firing of Wooten, who was once married to the governor’s sister.
Meanwhile, via the HuffPo, AP reports that Palin’s rural adviser Rhonda McBride quit over the governor’s sorry record on hiring Native Alaskans.
State Sen. Al Kookesh, a Democrat, said Palin left the position unfilled her first year in office and ignored Native leaders’ suggestions on the selection process.
“We were really disappointed when an Alaska Native wasn’t appointed,” said Kookesh, a Tlingit Indian who held the job in a previous administration.
Natives bristled early in Palin’s administration when she named a white woman to a game board seat held by a Native for more than 25 years. An Athabascan Indian eventually was named to the post after protests.
Relations worsened after Palin didn’t remove a game board chairman who once suggested that Alaska Natives missed a meeting because they were drinking beer, seen as insensitive since the Alaska Native community has high rates of alcohol abuse.
Alaska Natives make up about 20 percent of the population.