The moose, the trooper – and a scandal that could engulf McCain

Sarah Palin could face criminal charges over sacking of brother-in-law

Could the illegal shooting of a moose in the Alaskan wilderness affect the outcome of the race for the White House? Alaska's lawmakers were last night reviewing a potentially explosive report after their investigation into charges that Sarah Palin abused her power as Governor by sacking a senior official because he refused to bow to her wishes in a vendetta against her estranged brother-in-law.

The report's focus is on the sacking in July of former Alaska public safety commissioner Walter Monegan. Mr Monegan, who ran the state police force, claims he was ousted because he refused to sack Mike Wooten, the ex-husband of Mrs Palin's sister. One of the complaints given by Ms Palin's aides against Mr Wooten was that he pulled the trigger that felled a moose without a licence.

The findings could wreak havoc with John McCain's already faltering presidential hopes by reopening questions about his failure to vet his running mate. There is even a possibility of a criminal investigation into Mrs Palin. A scandal would, at best, be an unwelcome distraction for Mr McCain in the crucial final weeks of the election. The inquiry added to claims that Mr McCain is erratic at a time when steady leadership is needed.

The bipartisan investigation began before Ms Palin was picked as John McCain's running mate. Mrs Palin, who did not co-operate with the inquiry, denies any wrongdoing. Her critics allege that she wanted Mr Wooten drummed out of the police force on technicalities including that he illegally killed a moose during a family hunting expedition in 2003 when he was still married to her Ms Palin's sister, Molly. Molly had a hunting licence but her husband fired the fatal shot and the animal was eaten by the entire extended Palin family.

The tensions with Mr Wooten appear to long predate Sarah Palin's ascent to the governorship. After Mr Wooten had a bitter custody battle with Molly in 2005, Mrs Palin wrote a three-page email to Colonel Julia Grimes, who was then head of the state police force, accusing Mr Wooten of threatening to murder her father, driving on duty while drunk, using a stun gun on his 11-year-old stepson, shooting the moose without a permit, failing to pay a $5 fine for improper rubbish disposal, using illegal steroids and drinking while in his patrol car"

"Wooten is my brother-in-law, but this information is forwarded to you objectively," Mrs Palin wrote.

Todd Palin, although a private citizen whom the Governor refers to as the "First Dude" is accused of hounding officials to have Mr Wooten sacked.

He acknowledged this week in testimony to the inquiry that he made phone calls and convened meetings claiming Mr Wooten was a dangerous, unstable man who had threatened his family and should be dismissed. He said he made "no apology for wanting to protect my family". At one meeting in January 2007, according to the New York Times, the Governor's husband showed Mr Monegan pictures of the dead moose.

A subsequent inquiry found Mr Wooten guilty of "unacceptable and at times illegal activity". He was given a five-day suspension and warned he would be dismissed if he offended again.

The case, known in Alaska as "Troopergate", would never have exploded into the race for the White House if the matter had been allowed to rest at that.

But Mr Monegan claims the pressure on him to fire Mike Wooten intensified after the suspension. Mrs Palin denies instructing Mr Monegan to sack Mr Wooten and claims she sacked him over policy differences.

Earlier, the McCain campaign gave its version of events, portraying the argument as a legitimate policy dispute and political event. "The following document will prove Walt Monegan's dismissal was a result of his insubordination and budgetary clashes with Governor Palin," the campaign said.

As the lawmakers met yesterday, Palin supporters wearing clown noses and carrying balloons greeted them with cheers that "the circus is in town".

Mr Monegan said: "I just hope the truth is fgured out. That the governor did want me to fire Mr Wooten and I chose not to. You just can't walk up to someone and say, 'I fire you'. He didn't do anything under my watch toresult in termination."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own