Tue, Oct 07, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Palin aides to testify in abuse-of-power probe

ON THE DEFENSIVE The Alaska governor said an inquiry into her conduct is too political and believes only her state’s personnel board should be involved

AP, ANCHORAGE, ALASKA, WITH STAFF WRITER

Seven aides to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin have reversed course and agreed to testify in an investigation into whether the Republican vice presidential nominee abused her powers by firing a commissioner who refused to dismiss her former brother-in-law.

There is no indication, however, that Palin or her husband will now agree to testify in the legislative inquiry, which has dogged her for the past several months and could hurt John McCain in the final weeks of the presidential race.

Palin, a first-term governor, is the focus of a legislative investigation into her firing of Public Safety commissioner Walt Monegan a year after she, her husband and key advisers began questioning him about getting rid of a state trooper who had gone through a nasty divorce with her sister.

‘INSUBORDINATION’

Monegan says he was dismissed because he wouldn’t fire the governor’s former brother-in-law, but Palin contends he was dismissed for insubordination.

McCain operatives called Monegan a “rogue” who repeatedly tried to work outside normal channels for requesting money.

Lawmakers subpoenaed seven state employees to testify in the inquiry but the employees challenged those subpoenas.

After a judge rejected that challenge last week, the employees decided to testify, Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg said.

Democratic state Senator Hollis French, who is managing the investigation, said that, following the court ruling, he again asked Palin and her husband, Todd, whether they planned to testify.

“We’ve had no response,” French said on Sunday.

‘TOO POLITICAL’

Palin says the legislative inquiry has become too political and she believes that only the state’s personnel board should investigate the firing.

Todd Palin has agreed to speak with investigators for that panel but not for the legislative inquiry.

The governor has the authority to fire the members of the personnel board.

Alaska’s Supreme Court, meanwhile, is considering whether to block the findings of the legislative inquiry.

The high court scheduled arguments for tomorrow over whether the case is being manipulated to hurt Palin before Election Day on Nov. 4.

The decision by the state employees to testify will not affect that appeal, said Kevin Clarkson, a lawyer for five Republican lawmakers who brought that challenge.

The independent investigator conducting the probe plans to turn over his conclusions on the case by next Friday to the Legislative Council, the body that authorized it.

Some Republicans feel that Palin has been subjected to unreasonable media coverage and a recent poll found that slightly more than half of Americans believed that the media was “trying to hurt” Palin with negative coverage.

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