Palin's Trooper Travails

I wrote about Governor Palin’s troubles a couple of weeks ago. Short story is she fired the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, something she has every right to do just ’cause she wants to, saying she wanted a “new direction” for the department. That’s about as standard a reason for saying you fired someone as “I need to spend more time with my family” is for putting a brave face on being fired. Usually, neither is true. It soon comes out that Gov. Palin’s ex-brother-in-law is an Alaska State Trooper who had a nasty, nasty divorce from her sister and who is still in an ongoing custody dispute. In the course of the divorce, the Palin family made all sorts of complaints against the Trooper and ex-to be. These were investigated by the DPS and he was disciplined for some of the allegations. Not disciplined enough apparently to suit the Palin family.

Fast forward, the fired commissioner plays kiss and tell alleging that the beef between him and the Governor was about her pressuring him to fire the ex-brother in law, the ex very loudly and publicly releases all his personnel files at a presser with his union business manager. Over it all, the Gov says she didn’t put any pressure on the Commissioner to fire the Trooper nor did anyone else do so at her direction. Well, that didn’t pass the “would you believe this from your six year old” test to begin with. Along the way the Legislature, no friends of Gov. Palin these days, hires its own investigator to get to the bottom of the whole affair, whereupon Gov. Palin announces that she’s going to have the AG do an internal to the Executive Branch investigation to get to the bottom first.

Sure enough, out comes a tape of Palin’s right hand man, director of boards and commissions, Frank Bailey, talking to a State Trooper Lieutenant about talking to the commissioner about how concerned the Governor is that nothing has been done about firing the ex brother in law. Bailey wasn’t smart enough to call him on a nice discrete cell phone, he called him on the main, automatically recorded line to the Ketchikan Trooper Post. In the course of the conversation Bailey reveals that he had looked at the Trooper’s personnel files and, more importantly, Workers’ Compensation files while he was at the State’s Department of Administration. Well, there’s two problems with that: those files are confidential and there is no evidence that Bailey was authorized even to view the personnel files. More troubling, the Workers Comp files aren’t even kept in the Department of Administration and no one in Admin would normally have access to them. (Even as director of labor relations for the State, I didn’t have direct access to the Workers Comp files.)

That thump you heard should have been Frank Bailey going under the wheels of the bus, but actually after dithering a few days, the Governor’s Office announced that he was suspended WITH pay in the pendancy of the Legislature’s investigation. (Where do I volunteer for that?) Now the whole thing has a life of its own on talk radio and the political blogs and it ain’t going away.

The Gov really should just stand up and say “Hell yes I wanted him fired so long as it could be done legally.” Pretty much the whole State outside the Troopers’ union would agree with her on that. But so far, she’s tried to play coy about it and protect her inner circle. There’s really nothing wrong or illegal about a political figure telling another political figure that they want an employee fired. There’s nothing wrong or illegal about firing them if you can come up with a legal basis for doing so. But like so many things like this, while the underlying conduct was at least facially legal, the steps taken by some staff because of it and the apparent dissembling and covering up have exposed the first chinks in Gov. Palin’s heretofore impregnable armor. Sarah Palin left a lot of bleeding bodies in her wake on the way to the Governorship. Those still breathing aren’t going to pass up this opportunity to see what’s under that well-tailored armor. She needs to come clean or tighten her shield and buckler.