Monegan says his e-mails show he was no 'rogue'
EX-COMMISSIONER: They'll go to state Personnel Board investigator.
By WESLEY LOY
Gov. Sarah Palin's ex-public safety commissioner says he'll provide e-mails to a state investigator to refute his former boss's claim he had a "rogue mentality" on budgeting and was planning an unauthorized trip to Washington, D.C., to lobby for money.
Walt Monegan said his e-mails will counter a batch the governor's lawyer released last week purporting to show he was out of sync with Palin and that the planned trip was "the last straw" that got him fired.
In interviews this week, Monegan said the governor's e-mails are far from the last word on the last straw.
He said his e-mails will show a broader view of conversations within the administration and of his plans to visit U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in late July to talk about a bold plan to crack down on sexual assaults in Alaska, a state long plagued with one of the nation's highest rates of such crimes.
"No one ever told me -- no one -- that you're running amok," Monegan said.
Monegan never made the D.C. trip, as Palin fired him as public safety commissioner on July 11 "following eight months of insubordination" on budget and other issues, according to an account the governor's lawyer filed with the state Personnel Board on Sept. 15.
The board is investigating Monegan's dismissal. The state Legislature also has an investigation going, but Palin is cooperating only with the Personnel Board probe.
Monegan's firing has taken on huge national significance because of Palin's run for the vice presidency on John McCain's Republican ticket. Monegan has said he believes he lost his job because he resisted pressure from Palin and her husband, Todd, to fire a trooper involved in a rough divorce from the governor's sister. The governor denies that had anything to do with Monegan's dismissal.
Monegan said he gave his copies of the e-mails pertaining to his planned D.C. trip to his attorney, Jeff Feldman, who was out of town Friday.
The e-mails ultimately will be given to Tim Petumenos, an attorney the Personnel Board has hired to investigate, Monegan said.
In one e-mail, he said, a top Palin aide wrote that the governor didn't want the state to pick up the full tab for a sex crimes team of troopers, lawyers and judges -- that some federal money would be needed.
The leadership within the governor's office was well aware of the idea for the sex crimes unit, Monegan said, citing a meeting on the subject with Palin's budget director, Karen Rehfeld, and another aide, Randy Ruaro, last December.
"This was not done in the dark," Monegan said.
He also asserted top people in the governor's office knew why he planned to visit Murkowski, with Palin's chief of staff, Mike Nizich, having signed a travel authorization on June 18 stating the purpose of the trip was to attend a meeting with the senator. The form doesn't mention the sexual assault unit.
Monegan said Murkowski had expressed interest in the sex crime unit. He said he planned to discuss it and ask about potential sources of funding.
He said if he got a commitment on funding, he could give Palin a full funding picture.
"Then I would get a green light or a red light," he said. "Basically, she'd say yes or no."
Monegan added the governor's characterization of him as a rogue cabinet member just isn't accurate.
"That's never been the case," he said. "I'm a good soldier."
The governor's attorney, Tom Van Flein, gave the Personnel Board select e-mails from the governor's office to support his argument that Palin had ample reason to fire Monegan that had nothing to do with Trooper Wooten. He argued that Monegan had a "rogue mentality," bucked the governor's budget policies, worked with her political enemies behind her back, and "unilaterally" contacted the Alaska congressional delegation for funds to support "pet projects" in his Department of Public Safety.
"The proposed Washington trip proved to be the last straw," Van Flein said.
A June 26 e-mail from Ruaro to Rehfeld began: "Walt and DPS want to make a trip back to DC in the end of July" to work with John Katz, director of the governor's Washington office, and the congressional delegation on funding for a sexual assault unit costing up to $20 million.
Ruaro said he preferred a much smaller "mobile sexual assault unit" with fewer people, and asked Rehfeld whether he should instruct Monegan to seek an earmark of no more than $500,000 if he made the D.C. trip.
Rehfeld replied on the same day that the governor would want to know the budget implications of the sexual assault unit, such as the cost of sex offender treatment. She said Monegan's department needed to focus on its priorities and core services "before we strike out on some new program."
On July 7, Katz wrote to Ruaro, Rehfeld and others that he saw "two problems" with Monegan's planned trip.
"The first is that we don't have internal alignment, and that's always a prerequisite to bringing an issue to DC," Katz wrote. "Second, a request for funding at this time is out of sequence with our other appropriations requests and could put a strain on the evolving relationship between the Governor and Senator Stevens."
Rehfeld replied: "My two cents is that this needs to be communicated to Walt (again) from someone he will listen to. Randy and I spent an hour on the phone with him last week and I do not believe he was receiving our message at all."
Rehfeld added she wasn't convinced the sexual assault plan would solve a "deplorable situation" in the state.
THE TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION
Monegan noted the e-mails the governor's office released are incomplete in that they don't include any Department of Public Safety people.
"They're primarily between Randy and Karen," he said. "This is a little bit of a gossip thing back and forth."
Petumenos, the Personnel Board investigator, will get a much fuller set of e-mails, Monegan said.
Ruaro and Rehfeld, contacted Friday, declined to comment on the Washington trip, saying the Personnel Board investigation is confidential.
A week ago, however, Ruaro e-mailed comments through a governor's spokeswoman saying in part: "As a matter of routine, the travel was approved by Mike Nizich on June 18th -- weeks before the actual purpose of the trip was made clear by former Commissioner Monegan."
In fact, the e-mails the governor's office released indicate Ruaro knew the nature of the trip as soon as eight days later -- June 26.
And Monegan contends top Palin aides knew what the trip was about at the time the travel authorization was signed.
"If I was the investigator, I'd say, 'Wait a minute. You said he was a rogue and yet you would routinely, without asking him, approve a trip to D.C.,' " Monegan said. "How much water does that hold?"