Detailed emails/correspondence released re: “Troopergate”

As former Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan continues to make headlines via interviews with reporters, insisting he was fired because he refused to fire disgraced Alaskan State Trooper Mike Wooten – Gov. Palin’s former brother in law – government emails were released today that shed a whole new light on Monegan, much more than we’ve been getting from the MSM, and they go a long way towards backing up Gov. Palin’s claims about why she let Monegan go, which were: he wasn’t doing enough to fill state trooper vacancies and battle alcohol abuse issues [and] “did not turn out to be a team player on budgeting issues.”

On to the summary and timeline of the email correspondence:

Today, evidence was revealed that clearly demonstrates Governor Palin’s decision to replace the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Commissioner Walter Monegan was based entirely on his repeated refusal to execute her administration’s policy on fiscal and budget matters.

After months of swirling rumors and partisan politics, this evidence confirms what the Palin Administration has stated from Day One: the decision to replace Walt Monegan had nothing to do with concerns about the continued employment of state trooper Mike Wooten.

Government emails made public today show a pattern, from late 2007 through the middle of 2008, of Mr. Monegan’s refusal to comply with Administration policy. Despite repeated calls for budget discipline in the major state agencies, Mr. Monegan continued to press his own agenda without regard for either the formal budgeting process or the Governor’s clear policy priorities. Government staffers responsible for budget issues, and who had nothing to do with Mike Wooten, prevailed upon the governor to have Monegan replaced with someone who would not undermine the Palin administration’s budget goals.

As detailed below, insubordination and disputes over budget priorities – not Michael Wooten’s continued employment – led to Walt Monegan’s dismissal.

Mr. Monegan’s refusal to pursue Governor Palin’s policy objectives in the Department of Public Safety surfaced as early as October 2007, when DPS was involved in formulating a 10-year strategic plan. That planning process was intended to be closely integrated with other statewide planning and budgeting processes coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). From the beginning, however, Mr. Monegan made clear that “[r]ather than plan to a budget, we want to budget to a plan.”

Mr. Monegan seemed to acknowledge that his approach was at odds with the Governor’s budget priorities and protocol, but he continued to move forward with his efforts. In response, OMB Director Karen Rehfeld made very clear that the Governor “does not want to increase the budget/position count — this is going to be a real balancing act.” Governor Palin viewed filling the existing vacancies in the Alaska State Troopers a higher priority than increasing the position count to create more vacancies. But Mr. Monegan refused to follow through.

And, with that, the stage was set for an internal disagreement over budget priorities that would escalate throughout the next eight months.

By early January 2008, Mr. Monegan’s vision for expanding the DPS and its operating budget came into more direct conflict with that of the Administration.

Increasingly dissatisfied with the Administration’s budget priorities and the formal interdepartmental budgeting process, Mr. Monegan struck out on his own. On January 29, 2008, Randy Ruaro, then-special assistant to the Governor, reported to Ms. Rehfeld that Mr. Monegan was circumventing the normal interdepartmental channels for making budget requests. Ms. Rehfeld instructed Mr. Monegan to submit formal estimates to OMB.

Sensing that his actions were at odds with Administration objectives, Mr. Monegan asked Ms. Rehfeld if he or DPS was causing “concern” to members of the Governor’s office.

Rehfeld responded, “yes” and pointedly asked: “What can we reasonably do to tackle some of these very difficult issues and still maintain the budget discipline the governor is committed to?”

Mr. Monegan instead struck out on his own. Despite the Administration’s repeated calls for budget discipline in the major state agencies, Mr. Monegan continued to press his own expansive agenda without regard for either the formal budgeting process or the Governor’s clear policy priorities. In February 2008, for example, Mr. Monegan publicly released a letter to the Governor supporting a $1.8 million increase in the state budget for the Anchorage Community Land Trust, a line item the Governor previously had vetoed – an act of public rebuke that is almost unbelievable coming from a political appointee.

Ms. Rehfeld subsequently admonished Monegan for sending the letter, explaining that this type of public statement by a sitting cabinet member would likely frustrate the Administration’s efforts to achieve its budget objectives with the Legislature. As Ms. Rehfeld explained: “I expect we will see your letter appear as justification for funding to be included in the capital budget as the legislature makes changes to our budget, which is a bit awkward. Bottom line is, let’s talk about this rather than writing letters to the governor.”

Nevertheless problems continued; in March 2008, Mr. Ruaro complained to Ms. Rehfeld that the Department of Public Safety refused to work out disputes internally before going public: “I have spoken to Walt, [DPS Deputy Commissioner] John Glass, and Audie [Holloway] about working through issues internally first several times. Mike Nizich has spoken with them, and COS [Tibbles] has spoken directly with . . . Commissioner [Monegan]. … They seem to just not want to accept that concept.” In other emails, Mr. Ruaro complains that Monegan acting unilaterally had been “the problem for the last 6 months” and that “I have told them 4-5 times to work with OMB first. Mike [Nizich] talked to them as well.”

In June 2008, Mr. Ruaro reported that Mr. Monegan wanted to make a trip to Washington, D.C. to lobby the Alaska Congressional Delegation for funding for a new statewide sexual assault initiative run by his Department of Public Safety at an estimated cost of $10 million to $20 million dollars per year—even though it would only handle about thirty cases. Governor Palin, while supportive of the policy objectives, had previously made clear that she did not wish this proposal to move forward until DPS provided a detailed plan for the program’s costs and funding streams.

Problems with Mr. Monegan’s planned trip to DC continued to arise. First, Mr. Monegan had still not received OMB’s approval to pursue his plan. Second, Governor Palin’s office in Washington, D.C. was concerned about the lack of “internal agreement” over Mr. Monegan’s proposal. By July 2008, these twin problems had become synonymous with Mr. Monegan’s work at the Department. Yet Mr. Monegan persisted in planning to make the unauthorized lobbying trip to D.C. as late as July 7, 2008, and it was this which proved to be the last straw.

On July 11, 2008, following eight months of insubordination on the budget issue and hard on the heels of his planned unauthorized trip to Washington, Mr. Monegan was terminated.

At the end of the day, even Mr. Monegan himself recognized that his rogue mentality ultimately prevented him from fully integrating into the Governor’s cabinet. In a farewell email following his dismissal, Monegan encouraged his colleagues to pursue more productive behaviors in their continued service of Alaska and the Governor: “All relationships are based upon communications; I have known and said this for years, yet I stood back because I hadn’t wanted to add to her concerns. For anyone to lead effectively they must have the support of their team, and I had waited too long outside her door for her to believe that I supported her. Please, choose a different path.”

As a political appointee, Mr. Monegan served at the pleasure of the Governor and was duty-bound to execute the Governor’s policy objectives. After eight months of repeatedly ignoring the Governor’s budget priorities, making public statements that directly challenged the Governor’s policy agenda and taking numerous unilateral actions in conflict with the Governor in support of his own policy agenda, his replacement in July 2008 should have come as no surprise and cannot now seriously be questioned.

Gov. Palin’s lawyers have filed a motion for a “Determination of No Probable Cause” with the Personnel board. Click here to read that motion (a lot of which is repeated above), along with the email correspondence supporting the allegations of Monegan’s insubordination.

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