Palin cleared by Alaska panel in ethics probe
ANCHORAGE, Alaska |
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Alaska Gov. and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was cleared on Monday of wrongdoing in an abuse-of-power investigation into the firing of the state's public safety commissioner.
The Alaska Personnel Board report, issued on the eve of the U.S. presidential election, ran contrary to findings from a legislative inquiry that concluded in October that Palin had abused the power of her office by pressuring subordinates to fire a state trooper involved in a feud with her family.
Palin, who is Republican presidential candidate John McCain's running mate, brought the issue to the personnel board herself after complaining the legislative probe was a partisan effort led by Democrats.
The board, a three-member panel under Palin's authority, was responsible for determining if she had broken any laws.
The investigation concluded there was no "probable cause" that Palin violated the state's executive ethics act in dismissing Walt Monegan as public safety commissioner.
It also cleared her of ethics violations in respect to her dealings regarding Michael Wooten, the trooper involved in a contentious divorce and custody battle with the governor's sister.
Timothy Petumenos, independent counsel for the Alaska Personnel Board who wrote the report, said the legislative probe did a good job of assembling facts but did not interpret the ethics law properly.
"The Ethics Act is primarily directed at personal financial benefit," Petumenos told a news conference presenting the report. "People have a lot of misconceptions about the scope of the Alaska Ethics Act."
Petumenos also said the governor and several other administration officials categorically denied some of the conversations and contacts about which Monegan testified. That testimony became much of the basis for the legislative report's conclusion that she pressured subordinates to fire Wooten.
Palin also testified, according to Petumenos, that she had no knowledge of many of the contacts that formed the basis of the legislative probe, and that administrative officials made those contracts without her permission or direction.
PALIN PLEASED BY FINDINGS
Thomas Van Flein, attorney for Palin and her husband, Todd Palin, said the Palins were pleased by the personnel board's findings.
"Mr. Petumenos determined that the Branchflower report's findings that Governor Palin abused her power had no legal basis and that Governor Palin did not violate the Ethics Act as Mr. Branchflower incorrectly asserted," Van Flein said in a statement.
The governor, her husband and several aides had resisted calls to provide testimony to the legislative inquiry. Todd Palin and the aides refused to honor subpoenas issued in September by the state Senate Judiciary Committee.
Ultimately, Todd Palin and administrative officials submitted written statements to Steve Branchflower, the retired state prosecutor who wrote the legislative report.
The report said it was "concerned" about the use of private e-mail addresses for government work by Palin and her staff since e-mails using those addresses could not be archived and used for evidence in the investigation after deletion.
(Editing by Daisuke Wakabayashi and Peter Cooney)
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