Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin testified before an independent investigator Friday about allegations she abused her powers during a long-running personnel controversy that has now distracted from her Republican vice presidential campaign.
Palin waved but did not speak to reporters when she arrived at a Missouri hotel for her deposition, scheduled to last two hours before a lawyer from the Alaska Personnel Board. The board is investigating whether Palin abused her powers by firing her public safety commissioner.
The commissioner claims he was dismissed because he refused to fire Palin’s former brother-in-law, a state trooper involved in a messy divorce from Palin’s sister. The scandal, known as “Troopergate,” took on national significance after John McCain selected Palin as his running mate.
“She’s been looking forward to this day,” Palin’s attorney, Thomas Van Flein, said Friday. “She would like to tell her story and she’d like people to know the truth.”
A legislative investigation found that Palin had every right to fire the commissioner, Walter Monegan. But the report found that Palin violated state ethics laws by trying to get her former family member kicked off the force.
Palin and her husband, Todd, say the trooper, Mike Wooten, was unstable and had made threats against their family. Wooten had also used an electric stun gun on his stepson.
“I make no apologies for wanting to protect my family and wanting to publicize the injustice of a violent trooper keeping his badge,” Todd Palin said in an affidavit submitted to legislative investigators.
Sarah Palin was not subpoenaed in that investigation. Friday’s testimony before independent investigator Timothy Petumenos was the first time she spoke at length or under oath about the controversy. Palin began testifying around 4 p.m., McCain campaign spokesman Taylor Griffin said. Palin’s husband, Todd, was scheduled to testify before she did.
Although the legislative report issued a stinging rebuke of Palin’s conduct, it carried no penalty. It’s up to the personnel board to decide whether Palin violated the law. She filed a complaint against herself to launch the investigation after accusing the legislative inquiry of becoming partisan. Unlike the Legislature, the personnel board is run by officials that Palin can fire.
“Gov. Palin looks forward to meeting with Mr. Petumenos today and hopes that this investigation will provide the public with the facts in this matter,” McCain-Palin spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton said.
Whether Palin’s testimony becomes public remains uncertain. Personnel investigations are normally secret and, though Palin has waived her privacy rights, others in her administration have not and Petumenos has sought to keep the matter from playing out in the media.
Van Flein said Palin would like to release a transcript of her deposition. But producing one typically takes days and it’s unknown whether Petumenos will allow it.