Troopergate Developments Continue

>> Wednesday, September 17, 2008

As we all know Gov Sarah Palin has been trying to quash the troopergate probe. After vowing transparency and accountability she has decided to take a Cheneyesque route of secrecy and opaqueness. Her latest justification of the firing is budgetary. Monegan was fired because he was not working within the budget process like the governor wanted. The budget item that Monegan wanted so badly? Funding for a sex abuse task force to combat the "epidemic" that was plaguing Alaska.

First i want to lay out what Palin is now asserting is the reason that she fired Monegan. In documents filed with the court Palin's lawyers laid out her case. Those documents are available in pdf here. She fired him over his refusal to work within the budgeting process on two items. The first is a 1.8 million dollar request for land trust that had been previously vetoed by Palin. The second and far more prominent issue was Monegan's advocacy of an expnded budget to create a large, well funded, fully equipped task force to target sex crimes in Alaska.

Sex crimes are a major problem in Alaska as abc noted just yesterday,

Alaska leads the nation in reported forcible rapes per capita, according to the FBI, with a rate two and a half times the national average – a ranking it has held for many years. Children are no safer: Public safety experts believe that the prevalence of rape and sexual assault of minors in Alaska makes the state's record one of the worst in the U.S. And while solid statistics on domestic violence are hard to come by, most – including Gov. Palin – agree it is an "epidemic."

Monegan was the task force's major proponent according to abc news and the emails bear this out. He was very active in trying to get the funding for this project. The case presented in Palin's filing is one where Monegan was frustrated by the process that Palin had laid out for budgeting and was looking for a way to get around the resistance. The bottom line seems to be that Palin did not want to increase the budget to accommodate the program.

The email exchanges talk about the number of open trooper positions and how Monegan could use the funds for some of those open trooper positions to pay for a 4 man team that could travel around alaska targeting sex crimes. We do not get the Monegan response to this idea but i cant imagine it was in keeping with the type of effort needed he would view as necessary to go after sex crimes in the numbers that Alaska needed.

TPM has more info on the budget debate:

Also during the August 13 press conference she defended her firing of Monegan by saying he was asking for lawmakers for too much money. However records from the State Legislative Finance Division, show Governor Palin proposed a $7.3 million increase to the public safety department budget but the legislature reduced the amount to $6.4 million.

According to one House Finance Committee member, when the governor's original proposal was being cut by $900,000, she nor her staff said a word while Monegan was begging for the administration to fight for the original amount they requested due to skyrocketing fuel prices and increasing costs. He wasn't asking for more, he was simply asking for the original amount proposed by Palin.

The emails in the filing detail how monegan was using the trooper positions that they were unable to fill as a way to cover the shortfalls in their budget. They were having retention and recruiting issues and so they would lose money allocated to them if they could not find other places to put the money. Then they managed to fill some of the positions and that made them run into a shortfall.

Monegan was unable to get the state funds he needed for the task force for 2009 and the earliest it appears that anything could have been done would have been in 2010. Monegan sought help in funding the task force in he did it in true alaska tradition, he asked the federal government. Monegan took a trip to DC to ask the delegation for federal earmarks to help pay for this.

Emails included in the filings express upset at this trip. They expressed dismay over the trip and stated that the needed internal consistancy before making a trip as they had other earmark priorities and this could conflict. Monegan contradicts this email view,

Monegan stated on the KTUU News that the trip was authorized and supported by Governor Palin which seems to make sense because Alaska leads the nation in sexual assault.

The McCain/Palin camp contend that this trip was the last straw and that Palin could no longer tolerate the insubordination. How does this argument stand up to objective reality? I wont play the candy crowley and force you to make up your mind, i think they fail.

First note is that this is the third justification for the firing. The first justification coming July 28, was that, "she [Palin] wanted to take the Department of Public Safety in a different, more energetic direction".

Then came,

"And now I want to talk about Walt Monegan. I appointed Monegan as commissioner of public safety because of his grasp of both urban and rural law enforcement issues. Unfortunately as my term progressed, Commissioner Monegan was not making headway on key goals, such as filling numerous trooper vacancies. Alaskans deserve a fully staffed trooper force," Palin said.

However in her state of the state speech earlier she stated that she was in fact, happy with the progress in recruitment,

"In Public Safety and Corrections, after years of positions left vacant, we've doubled academy recruits."

Then Palin asserted she had not actually fired Monegan at all.

She said that one of her goals had been to combat alcohol abuse in rural Alaska, and she blamed Commissioner Monegan for failing to address the problem. That, she said, was a big reason that she'd let him go--only, by her account, she didn't fire him, exactly. Rather, she asked him to drop everything else and single-mindedly take on the state's drinking problem, as the director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. "It was a job that was open, commensurate in salary pretty much--ten thousand dollars less"--but, she added, Monegan hadn't wanted the job, so he left state service; he quit.

That one did not last all that long. Now we are at a place where the justification is his overly zealous pursuit of funds for the task force. This does not square with the earlier reasons for his firing. Why if he was such a rouge and such a rebel, did Palin offer him a position working on one of the most important things in her agenda? Does that make any sense? No.

If this was the reason why was it covered up? Why not come out with this sooner? Palin made no mention of this rebelliousness previous to now and statements from her staff contradict her.

On July 14, 2008 Kyle Hopkins of the Anchorage Daily News asked Palin press spokeperson Sharon Leighow about Monegan's firing:

Hopkins: "Was there a personality conflict here? You know, a rift between the governor and ..."

Leighow: "No, absolutely not. I don't know if there's more to add than what I've already told you as far as the governor wanting to change leadership in the public of safety. I don't know if we can point to one specific incident or one particular, specific detail."

So although the filing can present a compelling narrative it does not seem to hold water when placed in the framework of reality.


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