Former Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan said Monday that Gov. Sarah Palin’s credibility has been damaged by a state ethics probe that found that she abused her authority by trying to force him to fire her ex-brother-in-law from his job as a state trooper.
In an exclusive phone interview with TODAY’s Matt Lauer, Monegan would not say whether he would pursue legal action against Palin, who dismissed Monegan in July because, the ethics investigation concluded, he refused to fire Trooper Michael Wooten as Palin and her husband, Todd, insisted he do.
“What I’m trying to do — or what we’re trying to get out there — is this isn’t really about me,” Monegan told Lauer. “Inside the state of Alaska, we’re more concerned about our governor. I think she took a big blow to her credibility, and most certainly to her campaign promises of being open and transparent.”
Relief, not revenge
On Friday, Monegan had said he felt vindicated by the report by a bipartisan legislative panel. Monday, he said “relieved” is the more proper word to describe his emotions.
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“My wife and I have gone through a lot since July, and it’s not a matter of being revenged or anything like that — most specifically, just being relieved,” Monegan said.
The investigation into the firing was launched in July, shortly after Palin dismissed Monegan and a month before Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain picked Palin as his running mate. The investigation, which Palin has characterized as “a partisan kind of process,” was authorized by a 14-member legislative council whose membership includes 10 Republicans and four Democrats. The 263-page report issued Friday agreed that Palin had the authority to fire Monegan for any reason, or no reason at all.
The report concluded that Palin broke no laws, but did abuse her authority by trying to force Monegan to fire Wooten, who was engaged in a bitter divorce from Palin’s sister. The report also faulted Palin’s husband for improperly contacting numerous state officials in the effort to get Wooten fired.
When Monegan refused to fire the trooper, Palin dismissed Monegan.
After the report came out, Palin said she violated no laws and claimed that the report completely vindicated her.
Why the firing?
Monegan did not dispute the finding that his dismissal was legal. “The point where everybody seems to miss is I never contested my firing. My firing was as described, completely lawful and authorized in the constitution,” he told Lauer. “It wasn’t that I was fired that I asked any questions why. It was, ‘What was the reason for the firing?’”
The former public safety commissioner would not say whether he would pursue legal action against Palin.
Palin said over the weekend that the report ends the controversy, but the Alaska State Legislature may still decide to reprimand her, impeach her, or take no action at all.
While Democrats are saying that the report damages Palin’s credibility, Republican analysts told NBC News that her Republican base is likely to ignore it.
Lauer asked Monegan who he intends to vote for in the presidential election: McCain-Palin or Obama-Biden.
“Actually I’m an undeclared, and I have always picked the person or the issue that fits my values,” Monegan replied. “What I tell people when they ask me, ‘Who are you gonna vote for?’ is, ‘That’s why they put those little curtains around me in the ballot box.’ ”