Court clears way for Palin ethics probe release Friday

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The state Supreme Court refused today to halt an ethics investigation into Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee.

The ruling clears the way for lawmakers on Friday to release a report on their investigation into whether Palin abused her power by firing her public safety commissioner. The report could prove to be an embarrassment for Palin and a distraction for John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Lawmakers are investigating whether Palin abused her power to settle a family dispute. Her former public safety commissioner says he was dismissed after resisting pressure to fire a state trooper who had gone through a nasty divorce from Palin’s sister.

Republican lawmakers had sued to block the report, saying it had become politicized. Palin didn’t join that lawsuit. Her husband, Todd, and some of her top aides are cooperating in the inquiry.

In affidavits submitted Wednesday, Todd Palin and two top aides for his wife’s administration portrayed the firing as the result of continued wrangling between the governor and her public safety commissioner over control of the agency. The affidavits also portray Sarah Palin as uninvolved while her husband repeatedly tried to spread the word that their former brother-in-law was unfit to remain a state trooper.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court refused to block the legislative investigation but did not immediately explain why.

For several years, dating before Sarah Palin became governor, Todd Palin was telling state officials and the couple’s close circle of advisers emotional stories about Mike Wooten, their former brother-in-law, threatening and emotionally abusing his family.

Todd Palin said he talked to anyone who would listen. He gave them photos and documents, which they forwarded to others in the administration, and he questioned how Wooten kept his job.

Walter Monegan says he was fired from his job as public safety commissioner for not dismissing Wooten, a claim that eventually led to the politically charged investigation just before McCain chose Palin as his running mate in late August.

Palin says she fired Monegan over a budget dispute.

Todd Palin said he never pressured anyone, including his wife. In fact, he says that after repeatedly talking with her about the matter, she finally told him to “drop it.”

“Anyone who knows Sarah knows she is the governor and she calls the shots,” Todd Palin wrote. “I make no apologies for wanting to protect my family and wanting to publicize the injustice of a violent trooper keeping his badge.”

Republican lawmakers argued before the state Supreme Court this week that the legislative inquiry should be shut down and the report not released. The state’s personnel board also is looking into the matter, and Palin has said she thinks that inquiry is more appropriate.

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