AK Gov. Says Staffer Pressed for Trooper’s Firing

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In a press conference this afternoon, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) conceded that someone inside her administration pressured the state’s Department of Public Safety to fire State Trooper Mike Wooten, Palin’s former brother-in-law, who is now embroiled in a bitter custody battle with Palin’s sister.

Palin’s statement is the latest in what has come to be known around Alaska as “Wooten-gate.” The scandal began on July 11, when Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan was fired from his post with little explanation, a move that quickly raised questions in Alaska.

A few days later, Monegan came forward, stating that he had been pressured by those around Palin to fire Wooten — but had refused to do so — a choice that he believes led to his sudden dismissal. Palin denied Monegan’s accusations, and a Legislative Council has appointed a special commission to probe the matter.

In today’s conference, Palin said that state troopers had taped a phone call from Frank Bailey, Palin’s director of boards and commissions whom she appointed last August, in which Bailey inquired about having Wooten fired.

At the press conference today, Palin distanced herself from Bailey’s actions claiming that he acted alone, but the recordings suggest that he was acting at her instigation.

“The Palins can’t figure out why nothing’s going on,” Bailey said in the recorded phone call. “So Todd and Sarah are scratching their heads saying ‘Why is this guy representing the department, he’s a horrible recruiting tool.’ You know? So from their perspective everybody’s protecting him. . . Audi probably disagrees with me, Walt [Monegan] does and I understand it’s really touchy, but I just want you to understand that cops that use excessive force or go out of the lines, they just have no tolerance, because they’ve seen the facts personally.”

Bailey has yet to comment. Calls to his phone went directly to voice mail.

Late update: Audio of Frank Bailey’s recorded phone conversation has been released on the governor’s state website, you can listen to it here.