Video: Commissioner speaks out

By Rachel Maddow Host, 'The Rachel Maddow Show'
msnbc.com
updated 9/16/2008 3:37:06 PM ET 2008-09-16T19:37:06
TRANSCRIPT

On Monday, Rachel Maddow interviewed Walt Monegan, the Alaskan commissioner dismissed by Sarah Palin following the news that the Republican vice presidential candidate would not speak with the panel investigating “troopergate.”

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW:" Joining us now on the phone from Chugiak, Alaska, is that commissioner, Walt Monegan, the Alaskan official whose dismissal by Sarah Palin is the focus of the trooper-gate investigation. Chief Monegan, thanks very much for joining us.

WALT MONEGAN, COMMISSIONER DISMISSED BY SARAH PALIN (through phone):  Oh, thank you.

MADDOW:  Gov.Palin told Charlie Gibson, we just heard the clip there, that neither she nor her husband ever pressured you to hire or fire anybody.  Is that the truth?

MONEGAN:  No, not entirely.  The part about did she or anybody of her staff say fire him, quote-unquote, that never occurred.  No one ever said “fire him.”  They said things like — This man should not be a trooper.  This man shouldn’t represent the troopers.  Those kinds of things, which are inferring that, to fire him.

MADDOW:  Would you describe as being pressured to move him out of the office and was it-and how overt was that pressure if you did feel that pressure?

MONEGAN:  Well, the very first time I even heard trooper Wooten’s name was by-through her husband Todd, who wanted to tell me what kind of character that was working for me, and how he had filed a complaint and had documents and pictures.  And primarily, he wanted to describe the character of trooper Wooten.  And that was in January of ‘07.

It continued, right up until the last, I think, that popped up on this was in February of this year.  So, it was continual.  It was a kind of a reoccurring theme.  If it wasn’t-initially, it was the governor and her husband, but then it became other commissioners and not only did they call me, but they called other members of my staff.

MADDOW:  In reaction to the scandal, Gov. Palin has been claiming that you were dismissed not because of any resistance to this effort to get trooper Wooten fired, but because of job performance issues on your point.  She says that she was disappointed in your performance on budget issues, recruitment and retention of troopers.  They are pushing hard against you now on this.  What is your reaction to that?

MONEGAN:  Well, I’m really disappointed because, obviously, I think, up here, in the local story, that was starting to emerge, I truly did not know why I was terminated.  I mean, the very first night it happened, I walked away scratching my head.  But since then, watching how she jumped from one topic to another, it narrowed it down in mind exactly why I was terminated.

MADDOW:  Chief Monegan, we’ve had breaking news tonight that the spokespeople for the McCain-Palin campaign are now saying that Gov. Palin will not cooperate with the investigation, she will not speak to investigators.  I know and you know and everybody knows that she had initially greeted the investigation with enthusiasm; she had said that she was planning on participating in it.  What do you make of tonight’s breaking news?

MONEGAN:  Well, I’m disappointed on two areas here.  First up because, initially she did say that she was going to cooperate like you mentioned.  But the other part, probably more fundamental is that she campaigned and she was all of, I think, of Alaska’s hope for an open and transparent government.  And now, it’s been thwarted.

MADDOW:  On the issue of her campaign for the vice presidency, the basis of this investigation is that she essentially abused her power.  This investigation has gone from that initial charge to an allegation that she covered up and lied about what she did in order to avoid getting in trouble for it.  Was it very clear and common knowledge, at the time that members of her administration and Governor Palin herself were pressuring you about firing this trooper, was it clear, common knowledge in state government that that sort of behavior was inappropriate, out of bounds, and an abuse of power by the governor’s office?

MONEGAN:  Well, I would that it was probably very clear and known to the senior command of the Department of Public Safety and the Alaska State Troopers because we were all recipients of the phone calls or the messages or whatever.  I mean, it was a constant kind of thing.  But certainly, by the fact that they probably already knew that this was inappropriate because they never used the word “fire him, we want you to fire him.”  So, they merely inferred it, which tells me, as a former investigator, myself, that they knew it was wrong.

MADDOW:  Chief Monegan, can I ask why you have decided to speak publicly about this investigation, obviously, you are at the center of this storm, it’s your decision whether or not you speak to people like me in the press, whether or not you put your story out through official channels or you do it yourself, can I ask you what’s gone into your own decision to be publicly available on this?

MONEGAN:  Well, I’m actually — I’m holding myself a little back because I have reasons to trying to go on air.  There’s plenty of news crews that trying to put me in front of a camera and I’ve resisted that.  The idea though, everything that has happened, it harms, I think, the people in the state of Alaska in regards to some of their safety issues as well as the people themselves who are charged in carrying this out.

You know, Gov. Palin, actually, we all had high hopes for in trying to bring the troopers and everybody else in government to where it needs to be.  And that, honestly, if you will be able to talk to the vast majority of the troopers that are stationed all across this big state, they started to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  They thought that for a change now, people were going to support her.  And what that does is they, in turn, support everybody else.  And I think, right now, at least what I was told the other day, is that that has come to a screeching halt.

MADDOW:  Yes.  High and dry is the term that comes to mind here.  Former Alaska commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan, former chief of police in Anchorage, thank you very much for speaking with us tonight.  I appreciate you taking the time to do it.

MONEGAN:  All right.  Thank you, very much.

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