ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Gov. Sarah Palin is unlikely to speak with an independent counsel hired by Alaska lawmakers to review the firing of her public safety commissioner, a spokesman for Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Monday.
Spokesman Ed O'Callaghan initially said Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president, would not testify as part of the probe "as long as it remains tainted." He later clarified his statement to say Palin is "unlikely to cooperate" with the inquiry.
O'Callaghan also said he did not know whether Palin's husband, Todd, would challenge a subpoena issued last Friday to compel his cooperation. Thomas Van Flein, the Palins' lawyer, who has accepted service of the subpoena, did not return messages seeking comment. The governor herself has not been subpoenaed, but the Legislature's investigator, Steve Branchflower, has said he hopes to speak with her.
McCain's campaign insists the investigation into the firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan has been hijacked by Democrats. The campaign says it can prove Monegan was fired in July because of insubordination on budget issues, and not because he refused to fire a state trooper who went through a nasty divorce from Palin's sister.
To that end, the campaign released a series of e-mails detailing the frustration several Palin administration officials experienced in dealing with Monegan. The "last straw," the campaign said, was a trip Monegan planned to Washington in July to seek federal money for investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cases.
In a July 7 e-mail, John Katz, the governor's special counsel, noted two problems with the trip: the governor hadn't agreed the money should be sought, and the request "is out of sequence with our other appropriations requests and could put a strain on the evolving relationship between the Governor and Sen. Stevens."
Monegan was fired four days later.
In the weeks since, it has emerged that the Palins and her staff repeatedly had contacted Monegan expressing their dismay at the continued employment of Trooper Mike Wooten, who divorced Palin's sister in 2005. The following year, Wooten was suspended for five days based on complaints filed by the Palins, including that he drank in his patrol car, used a Taser on his 10-year-old stepson and illegally shot a moose.
The Legislature voted to authorize an investigation into the circumstances of Monegan's firing.
Palin initially said she welcomed the inquiry. But after she became McCain's running mate on Aug. 29 her lawyer sought to have the three-member state Personnel Board take over the investigation, alleging that public statements by the chair of the Senate Judiciary committee indicated the probe was politically motivated.
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